Fargo poised to avoid really bad flooding, but the same cant be said for farther north – Star Tribune

Fargo poised to avoid \really bad\ flooding, but the same can\t be said for farther north - Star Tribune

Mississippi River no longer rising in Dubuque

The Red River is gaining speed as the winter melt pushes it over its banks. Yet folks in Fargo are breathing a sigh of relief after days of sandbagging and weeks of worry.

The north-running river is expected to crest at about 35 feet Sunday or Monday, a level far below an earlier threat that it might hit 40 feet or more — well above major flood stage.

“That would have been really bad,” Amanda Lee, hydrologist for the National Weather Service in Grand Forks, N.D., said Friday. “That would have been reaching new record levels.”

Alan Marshal with the Army Corps of Engineers says when the river gets to a certain level, the locks shut down because the water puts too much stress on the lock gates.

Instead, Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney said, the city will manage the river’s rise quite nicely, echoing those who’ve already weathered this season’s crests along the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers. In nearly every case, a slow melt slowed the waters’ rise, keeping them below projected crests that had cities preparing for the worst.

The Corps controls the Locks-and Dams number 11 through 22.Only one on them, Lock-and-Dam 19 in Keokuk remains open.

In Fargo, the city has yet to use any of the 393,000 sandbags that volunteers helped fill, Mahoney said. The big flood fight will be in rural areas north and west of town, he said.

In the past, the sidewalk just south of the Fargo High Rise has been a popular spot among flood gazers, as it provides a good view of where water hits the permanent dike looming across Fourth Street South from Island Park. This year, however, a construction project under way near the High Rise limits access to that area.

Elsewhere in North Dakota’s Cass County, rural homeowners and farmers are preparing for overland flooding that will force some to sandbag around their homes and others to use boats to get to work and school.

In Moorhead, both the little park with the horseshoe pit just north of what used to be Ushers House restaurant and the paved bike path on top of the levee on Woodlawn Parks southern edge – at Fourth Street and Fifth Avenue South – also provide nice views of the Red River during times of flooding.

Fargo Reaches Major Flood Stage

“The people who live here have an acute understanding of when it will flood, when they have to sandbag and what precautions they have to take,” said Robert Wilson, Cass County administrator.

An object frequently photographed during floods is a stop sign just below the southwest corner of the Center Mall parking ramp, as it serves as a measuring stick for gauging how far the water advances in Moorhead.

There’s a domino effect as snowmelt drains into the Maple and Rush rivers, which feed into the Sheyenne. That river flows into the Red River.

This year, it might work best to approach the bridge from the Moorhead side, as construction on the Fargo side of the Red River in the area of Main Avenue makes accessing the bridge on foot a challenge.

“All three rivers interact with the Red,” said Cass County engineer Jason Benson. “When the Red River rises to 33 feet, water backs up into the Sheyenne River.”

A stairway attached to the Moorhead Center Mall parking garage offers safe, but expansive views of the flooding Red River on Thursday, April 4, 2019. Ann Arbor Miller / The ForumAnn Arbor Miller

And when the Sheyenne, Maple and Rush rivers spill over their banks, water spreads out across a flat landscape.

About 800 residents are in the way of the water, Benson said. The county already has delivered 80,000 sandbags to those facing flooding. Others will be stranded when roads become impassable.

“People know that they will have to jump into their four-wheelers and go a fourth of a mile down the road, where they’ll jump in a boat that will take them to a car they have there,” Benson. “Others will just plan to stay in their homes for about a week” until the water recedes.

When it comes to the Sheyenne River, one spot that will provide an interesting view of the river is located just north of Cass County Road 14, west of Sheyenne Street.

A slower melt has some in the area feeling cautiously optimistic that the flooding won’t be as significant as projected weeks ago, Benson said.

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“The flooding will be bad, but it won’t be as long,” he said. “In the past, we had people who had to boat to their homes for 45 days.”

Back in Fargo, the 75 pumps scattered across the city are keeping neighborhoods dry, and a two-year-old dike near City Hall will be tested by the rising Red River, the mayor said.

The crest is expected to linger a couple of days before it begins to drop late next week. That likely means road detours and longer commutes, he said.

Three bridges over the river that connect Fargo and Moorhead are likely to stay closed until the water recedes. “About 60 percent of the people who live in Moorhead work in Fargo,” Mahoney said. “They won’t be happy when we slow everything down. People get a little grumpy this time of year.”

But most understand if they stop to look at the Red, a lazily flowing river most other times of the year.

“What people are seeing now is the power of the river,” Mahoney said. “People begin to understand you can’t stop the water. It’s moving. Logs and debris go by. When you see all this water you have to admire the might of the river.”

That’s why city crews will stay at the ready in case anything goes wrong, he said. No one takes anything for granted until the river goes down. “Then we’re pretty much done. Then we can celebrate,” Mahoney added.

South of Fargo, in Breckenridge, Minn., Mayor Russ Wilson said the Red crested last week. “We were prepared. … I think everyone here breathed a big sigh of relief,” he said.

In East Grand Forks, Minn., the wait for the Red crest continues. It’s expected to top off at 47.7 feet on Thursday or Friday, said Mayor Steve Gander. “I think we’re golden,” he said, adding that the city, like other river towns, has taken measures such as building a levee.

As the river crests this year, it likely will force a couple of bridges to close and commutes will get longer, Gander said.

“We’ll put up with that compared to 1997, when the whole town was flooded and everyone had to evacuate for 21 days,” he said. “When you have flooding like that and now you have an extra 12 minutes on your commute, this is nothing. We’re happy up here.”

Mary Lynn Smith is a general assignment reporter for the Star Tribune. She previously covered St. Paul City Hall and Ramsey County. Before that, she worked in Duluth where she covered local and state government and business. She frequently has written about the outdoors.

DUBUQUE, Iowa The Mississippi River is no longer rising in Dubuque. It crested Friday afternoon at about 21.2 feet.

Thats about a foot above major flood stage, but still about four feet lower than the record in 1965.

The National Weather Service expects it to steadily drop below major flood stage by Monday afternoon.

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