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Good news for Red, bad for Sheyenne

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Detroit Lakes, 56501
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

FARGO - Breakouts from the Sheyenne River are making travel in western Cass County hazardous, threatening rural subdivisions and promising to cut off some farmsteads for weeks, officials said Monday.

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Meanwhile, Fargo officials were cheered by the National Weather Service's lower crest predictions for the Red River, and agreed to ship some of the city's 500,000 reserve sandbags to help Valley City and Lisbon stave off the bloated Sheyenne River.

"They have a considerable challenge ahead of them," Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said.

The North Dakota National Guard and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers shifted troops and equipment to the towns.

The Red River in Fargo was at 32.51 feet Monday, with the weather service predicting it could hit 38 feet by Friday.

Walaker said he's traveled the watershed and doubts it will get that high.

The weather service forecasts a half-inch of rain for the area Wednesday through Friday, but Walaker said he won't worry unless the area gets 2 to 4 inches of rain.

Cass County residents were urged to drive carefully on roads in the west and southwest damaged or submerged by flooding.

"We're in a more dangerous time now than the first time around," Sheriff Paul Laney said, adding that some roads "look like they were bombed."

Laney said roads that might be passable at first can become dangerous in hours, and swift currents can sweep even heavy four-by-fours into ditches.

Officials closed I-94 from Bismarck to Jamestown at 10 p.m. Monday.

Cass County Engineer Keith Berndt said a flyover of the county showed "significant breakouts" from the Sheyenne in the south and west, but he was encouraged by water levels.

Residents of Country Acres, south of Horace, and Willow Creek, west of West Fargo, are sandbagging against possible high water, he said.

Problem areas along the Sheyenne include spots east and west of Kindred, heading north to Horace, Berndt said, as is the area north of West Fargo between that city and Harwood.

He said many people "have real access problems," including having to take boats or canoes to get to roads, and that water will continue to be high for three weeks, he said.

North of Harwood, many sections of land are inundated, isolating rural farmsteads, he said.

Berndt said officials are also watching the Absaraka Dam after concerns were raised about a potential breach.

FEMA office to open

Meanwhile, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will open a disaster recovery office Wednesday at 1010 2nd Ave. S., in Fargo. It will be open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, seven days a week, said Colette Blum-Meister, a FEMA liaison.

Residents and business owners seeking Individual Disaster Assistance, which includes grants and low-interest loans, can call FEMA at (800) 621-3362, or go online to: www.disasterassistance.gov.

They can also go to www.casscountynd.gov, and follow links to the FEMA site, officials said.

Moorhead officials said a similar office will open in that city Wednesday or Thursday. It will be in the former Edison Elementary School building.

About 9,000 people in North Dakota may be eligible for aid, Blum-Meister said. She said 100 to 150 homes in Clay County have serious damage.

Laney warned that people will be met by Sheriff's Department patrols in "seven or eight" areas to deter thieves, Laney said.

"If there is someone trying to do ill in these communities, we'll have a welcoming party for them," he said.

Cass County Commissioner Ken Pawluk warned residents that high waters will be around as long as heavy flows from Lake Ashtabula wind through the Sheyenne.

"We can anticipate seeing water where we have not seen it in the past," Pawluk said.

Moorhead City Engineer Bob Zimmerman said the city has prepared its defenses to 43 feet, including contingency dikes and pumps to back up the storm and sanitary sewer systems.

Moorhead also sent 500 to 1,000 sandbags to Oakport Township, officials said.

Forum reporter Dave Olson contributed to this report.

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