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Sandbaggers raising dikes in Crookston

CROOKSTON - Officials are keeping a close eye on the swollen Red Lake River here as a voluntary evacuation remains in effect after the river surged this morning caused by an ice jam west of town.

Sandbaggers, who scrambled after sirens sounded at about 9:40 this morning, now are working to continue to raise sections totaling 800 feet of the dike from 27 feet to 28 feet, to allow more free board for an expected crest Thursday of about 26.5 feet.

"That's pretty doable," City Administrator Aaron Parish said, adding officials expect to reach that height by tonight.

The evacuation primarily affects two low-lying neighborhoods near the river, Sampson's addition and Jerome addition, which together have about 500 households in this town of 8,200.

The Red Lake River had risen to 25.8 feet today - jumping from about 20.5 feet at about 1:30 a.m.

Meanwhile, a shelter is being set up in the gymnasium on the campus of the University of Minnesota in Crookston. So far about 35 households have notified officials that they have left their homes, but some are expected to stay with friends or relatives.

Many residents, who went through a surge in the 1997 flood, are waiting to see what happens. Rivers plagued by ice jams are frustratingly unpredictabl, officials caution.

"It's a very tenuous situation," Parish said. "Many variables. We're in high alert."

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