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Wahpeton, Breckenridge ready for 'Round II' of flood battle

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WAHPETON - Wahpeton began Monday with flooded streets and a no travel advisory, but by late morning officials here - and counterparts across the river in Breckenridge - said they are ready for "round two" of the battle against a surging Red River.

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The area was hit with ranges of 1.5 to 3 inches of rain Sunday and early Monday, and the National Weather Service is now projecting a flood crest as high as 19.5 feet as early as Tuesday.

"We worked our tails off last week," said Brett Lambrecht, Richland County emergency manager, about efforts to reinforce dikes along the Red. "We're doing all this prep work, and then we turn around and get 2 to 3 inches on average on frozen ground. Mother Nature throws you a curveball."

The Wahpeton storm drainage system was overwhelmed by heavy rain overnight, and water backed up into streets across the city this morning. Lambrecht said just about every town in Richland County was experiencing some water backup problems. The city pumps were able to catch up by late morning.

Lambrecht was confident the reinforced dikes along the Red would hold off the river even in the case of a 19-foot crest - a record for this area.

Across the river in Breckenridge, Lambrecht's Wilkin County counterpart, Vernon Woytassek, said the city and county were ready, as well. Efforts to reinforce the dikes with sandbags are still going on in Breckenridge. At the Wilkin County Highway Department building downtown, scores of volunteers from the community as well neighboring cities worked to fill 120,000 sandbags.

In Wahpeton, volunteer sandbaggers started gathering at the National Guard Armory at 1 p.m. Monday, and city crews and volunteers were delivering sandbags countywide.

The area is bracing for another half inch of rain Monday night, and it rained intermittently through the day. The Red River, which surpassed the flood stage of 14.5 feet Sunday, was swollen and covered with ice.

"We're ready for round two," Lambrecht said. "We hope Mother Nature won't throw us another curveball."

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