Late flooding ruins plans
Fargo residents who say they can't recall such severe Red River flooding this late in the year can feel good about their memory banks, because it hasn't happened in modern recorded history.
Recent heavy rains are wreaking late-season havoc on parks, bridges and roads, not to mention area farmers still trying to get their crops out of the field.
October floods are unusual but not unprecedented, said Dan Riddle, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Grand Forks, N.D.
In 2004, the Red River at Fargo hit 18.1 feet on Halloween. Flood stage is
However, it's "much more unusual" for the river to rise above its moderate flood stage of 25 feet in October, Riddle said. The Red was projected to crest at 26 feet Thursday afternoon or evening.
Historical records of flood crests kept by the city's Engineering Department show the latest occurrence of moderate flooding on Aug. 1, 1993, when the river crested at 26.36 feet.
"I have never in my lifetime seen the river this high this late in the fall," Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said.
Two bridges in Clay County were closed Monday morning because of flooding, Sheriff Bill Bergquist said.
The bridges over the Buffalo River at 12th and 28th avenues north between Dilworth and Glyndon were submerged in 1 to 2 feet of water, Bergquist said. He advised motorists to stick to major roads and not attempt to cross flooded bridges and roads.
"Especially the gravel roads, the gravel could be washed out and you wouldn't even know it," he said.
Flooded trails along the Red River in Fargo forced the Lake Agassiz Pacers to reroute its annual Red River Run on Saturday. The new starting point will be Courts Plus in south Fargo. More information is available on the group's Web site at www.lakeagassizpacers.com.
The swollen river forced the Fargo Park District to close its campgrounds at Lindenwood Park and remove the floating bridge at Dike East. Trees and debris carried by the river also threatened to topple the walking bridges at Lindenwood and Oak Grove parks, district executive director Roger Gress said.
If the river reaches moderate flood stage, it will partially flood another green at Edgewood Golf Course, Gress said. Electrical panels also were moved away from the floodwaters at Mickelson Park and Dike East, he said.
"We've got our fingers crossed up and down for a variety of reasons," he said.
Most of the Red River Valley has received 8 to 9 inches of rain since Sept. 1, causing the Red River and some of its tributaries to flood, Riddle said.
Saturated soils in the fall can exacerbate spring flooding, but it's too early to tell what next spring will bring, Walaker said, noting the area was concerned about drought earlier this year.
"The weather is too unpredictable to be concerned about things that haven't happened yet," he said.
Heavy rains bring about late floods
It's unusual - but not unheard of - for the Red River in Fargo to flood in October.
Below are five summer and fall river crests brought about by heavy rainfall. Flood stage in Fargo is 18 feet.
Date River level
July 5, 1975 33.27 feet
Aug. 1, 1993 26.36 feet
June 21, 2000 22.74 feet
Oct. 31, 2004 18.1 feet
Oct. 15, 2008 24.7 feet*
*As of noon Wednesday
City of Fargo,
National Weather Service
Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528