Posted at 1:35 PM on April 9, 2011
by Jon Gordon
Minnesota's two U.S. Senators congratulated Moorhead officials today on defending the city from its third year of high water.
Senator Amy Klobuchar said she'll push for funding for a long term plan that would minimize future flooding by storing water in retention pools upstream.
"The idea is you retain water like a big pool and then the water may actually recede and you can use the land for farming depending on what you're farming," Klobuchar said.
The Red River is cresting in the Fargo-Moorhead area today. The National Weather Service says the river appears to be leveling off below 39 feet. Up to an inch of rain in the forecast for the weekend isn't expected to change the crest.
"It would be a day or two before all the runoff got in," he said. "The crest would be past by then. Shouldn't have a big effect on the river."
Rain could keep the river high longer, and that could put additional stress on levees and sandbag dikes. The National Weather Service says the Red River will crest in Fargo-Moorhead at around 39 feet some time today. The river leveled off this morning just below 39 feet.
Earlier forecasts called for a river crest of from 39-40 feet. The record flood in 2009 reached 40.8 feet. National guard troops and local residents will continue to monitor dikes around the clock.
Here's the latest AP story:
By DAVE KOLPACK
FARGO, N.D. (AP) - The Red River neared its spring flooding peak on Saturday, approaching historic highs yet short of the levels that might have cracked the defenses of a city used to dealing with high water.
The National Weather Service said the river appeared to be leveling off as it approached 39 feet. The weather service refined its crest projection to 39 feet by Saturday night, the low end of a range that earlier had been as much as 40 feet, and said up to an inch of rain in the weekend forecast wasn't expected to change the crest.
Both Fargo and neighboring Moorhead, Minn., with a combined population of nearly 200,000, have permanent and temporary dikes and levees to at least 41 feet. The Red's high water was expected to linger late into the week, so closely watching those protections was essential, officials said.
"Things can change," said Col. Michael Price, commander of the Army Corps of Engineers' district office in St. Paul, Minn.
Mayor Dennis Walaker, a former public works director and veteran of several flood fights, said he didn't think the Red would break 39 feet.
The Red River Valley has had three straight years of major flooding.
The record flood of 2009 forced thousands to evacuate, inundated about 100 homes and caused an estimated $100 million in damage. The river crested at 40.84 feet. The river topped out last year at 36.99 feet, the sixth-highest crest on record. Damage last year was minimal.
Fargo and Moorhead have steadily reduced their vulnerability to the Red by buying out homes in flood-prone areas, purchasing miles of quick-install diking systems and making millions of sandbags before they're urgently needed. This winter's heavy snowfall had the cities laying plans for spring flooding far in advance, and construction of sandbag dikes wrapped up Friday in the two cities.
Still, the perennial flood threat is serious. Three people have died in the past week in the Red River Valley, including a farmer who suffered a heart attack while sandbagging and two hunters boating on the flooded Maple River.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
The National Weather Service has not yet revised its crest forecast, but here's some evidence the Red may have already reached a peak. Maybe. It's just a tweet.
Earlier this morning, MPR News reporter Dan Gunderson told us that Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker expects the river to rise only about another inch, cresting below 39 feet. Fargo defenses are built to 41 feet. 42 in Moorhead. Bottom line: if we haven't quite seen a crest, it looks like it's imminent. It's worth pointing out, however, that some weekend rain is in the forecast.
"This is pretty new to have this many products," said Tim Bertschi, a flood engineer for the Army Corps of Engineers.
Mr. Bertschi added that the federal government would be watching closely to see how well these systems worked in coming days.
"It's a real-life test. This isn't laboratory stuff," he said. "But it wouldn't be out there if they didn't think it worked."
The city used about 3 million sandbags in 2009, the year of its worst recorded flood. Last year, the fifth worst, the city filled and stacked 1.5 million. But now, even though an army of volunteers began working earlier than usual at Fargo's "Sandbag Central" and filled nearly 3 million, the city has used only about 500,000 sandbags.