Storm system raises river crests for Grand Forks area
GRAND FORKS - The Red River at East Grand Forks surpassed flood stage of 28 feet about 6 p.m. Sunday on its way to 50.4 feet by March 29 and a crest prediction of 52.5 feet by the middle of next week, according to the National Weather Service.
The higher crest warnings come with the arrival of a system that could wring out significant moisture through Tuesday.
"It looks like an inch to two inches, then we're going to get a break Monday morning, and then more Monday night and Tuesday," said meteorologist Brad Hopkins.
The flood forecast changed from moderate to major Sunday along the Red River for Grand Forks, Traill and Walsh counties in North Dakota and for Polk, Norman and Marshall counties in Minnesota. A flood warning for overland flooding is in effect for much of northeastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota until 4 p.m. Wednesday.
East Grand Forks officials reported flood closures along the downtown Boardwalk were near completion Sunday afternoon, and construction of flood closures along the north end's River Road could begin Monday or Tuesday, depending upon river levels.
Further updates will be available at EGFflood.info or at (218) 399-3456.
Officials in Fargo and Moorhead issued urgent pleas for volunteers to help with sandbagging. The Red River is expected to rise to a crest of 39 feet to 41 feet in the Fargo-Moorhead area by Friday, a day earlier and a foot higher than earlier projected.
Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker took deep breaths as he asked for help from residents and others.
"What we want to do is avoid any kind of chaos," Walaker said Sunday, as rain began falling outside City Hall. "This is a system where everybody works very hard to provide organization to this process. But as they keep changing the rules, it becomes more and more tense."
Across the river, Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland said he did not think the two cities were ready for a flood that could top the record crest of 39.6 feet in 1997. He said residents were too complacent.
"People just didn't think it was really going to happen," Voxland said. "Today, it really sunk in."
The scary thing, Walaker said, is the weather.
"It's not good news by any stretch of the imagination," he said
Fargo officials believe they need nearly 1.9 million bags to protect neighborhoods that would be affected by the new projections. About 400,000 to 500,000 bags must be filled each day to reach the goal by the end of the week, officials said.
People interested in helping fill or stack sandbags should call FirstLink at (701) 476-4000 before showing up.
Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney said 25 inmates from the Cass County jail would be filling sandbags overnight. Fargo Public High School students are being released if they want to help, and 80 members of the North Dakota State football team have signed up to fill bags. Concordia College canceled all but 8:30 a.m. classes today so students can help with sandbagging.
The most vulnerable neighborhoods in Fargo are on the south side, with about 700 homes needing initial sandbag protection, Walaker said. A dike protecting downtown Fargo was being raised to about 43 feet. Cass County officials were finishing an emergency levee south of the city. Earth work in the city and county was 80 percent complete, officials said.
The Army Corps of Engineers said its contractors have been building emergency levees in the cities of Fargo, Grafton, Harwood, Valley City and Wahpeton in North Dakota, and in the cities of Breckenridge, Moorhead and Georgetown in Minnesota.
More than 200 Minnesota Army National Guard Soldiers from the Moorhead-based 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th Infantry have been active to support flood-fighting activities in the Red River Valley. The North Dakota National Guard said about 250 of its members were ready.
Just after 9 p.m., a 200-yard stretch of the westbound lane of Interstate 94 was reported under water east of the Buffalo/Alice exit in western Cass County.
A day after celebrating the North Dakota State Class B Boys High School Basketball Champions, Linton Public School has become a shelter. Emmons County Emergency Managers advised residents of Linton Old Town to evacuate Sunday night.
In Beulah, officials were warning about 400 residents they might have to evacuate.
"I can't think really of one road that isn't affected," said Stephen Perry, a Beulah city councilman working on flood disaster plans.
Perry said about 400 residents in the south part of Beulah were told to prepare for possible evacuation because of a threat from the Knife River. He said the river was still in its banks Sunday except in low-lying areas, but people were being warned that could change.
Perry said the city's emergency center could take people in, and the city has been publicizing the potential flood threat since January. If residents do evacuate, it likely will not be for long, he said.
"Traditionally, floods in this area are not like the Red River Valley, where it lasts," Perry said.
Flash flood warnings were in effect until Sunday evening in Dickey and LaMoure counties of North Dakota. The LaMoure County Sheriff's Office advised no travel because of flooding on county and township roads.
The North Dakota Highway Patrol closed U.S. Highway 83 southbound from Sterling and northbound from the South Dakota state line because of flooding and water over the road. No travel advisories included Highway 11 west of Ellendale east to Highway 1 and Highway 3 south of Ashley.
In Mott, seven families on the west side of town were evacuated along the Cannonball River.
"It just keeps coming up," Mayor Troy Mosbrucker said Sunday.
The river was expected to crest early today. Then, the forecast called for the area to get 10 inches of snow.
The area from Bismarck and Minot west is under a blizzard warning. The weather service said northwestern South Dakota could get up to 2 feet of snow and southwestern North Dakota could get up to 18 inches by midweek. The Bismarck and Minot areas could get up to a foot of snow, with up to 6 inches in the Devils Lake area.
"We're expecting a changeover to snow Monday morning," meteorologist Joshua Scheck said in Bismarck. The heaviest amounts are expected to follow a southwest to northeast pattern, moving slightly north of Fargo, he said.