On Monday evening, it was pretty clear Highway 210 wouldn't be open for long. I was about halfway through one portion where water had covered the road when I had the image of Mary Lucia telling the story of the blogger who got himself swept into the flood by doing something he knows he shouldn't have been doing. "Turn around, don't drown," National Guard Capt. Chuck Moore intoned when I told him about the situation later.
A Chevy Cavalier isn't much of an off-road vehicle.
(Moorhead) - This area picked up another half inch of rain in the last 12 hours, the last thing it needed. But is snow and cold temperatures a good or a bad thing?The meteorologists say the cold will slow the snow melt, but also make it harder to stuff sandbags.
We're heading out in a bit to document the effort to save some homes in the area. MPR's Dan Gunderson, based in Moorhead, is in Fargo this morning. Ambar Espinoza will be in Breckenridge when the Red River crests there this afternoon.
Volunteers are streaming into the area. I saw firefighters from St. Louis Park and Chaska last evening. Some are having a hard time finding a place to stay, so some of the colleges here are putting them up.
All three of the colleges in the area are closed again today, so students can help sandbag.
Here are the latest river intentions.
Downstream at Breckenridge, things will be quicker:
I'm at the daily flood information meeting at the Fargo City Hall. About 30 people -- all men -- are sitting around a table.
Fargo Mayor Dennis Walker announces the Red River has crested at Wahpeton at a level below that which was predicted. "We need another good day and we assume the same is going to happen today," he said.
Gov. John Hovan said he couldn't get home last night because of a blizzard in Bismarck. About 800 North Dakota National Guard members will be in the area by later today.
Hoping to get a federal disaster declaration today. They're hoping to get 90 percent reimbursement. "In 1997, we got 100 percent," the mayor said.
A few officials were upset by an article in the Fargo Forum newspaper today in which a Salvation Army official said he was seeing more "fear."
" Fear. We don't see any fear, we just see people working very hard," the mayor said. "There may be people concerned and they're always concerned."
At the meeting a Salvation Army official apologized for the comment.
The mayor said people are showing up from Minnesota to volunteer. "People in Minnesota are bypassing Moorhead, which I think is kind of interesting," the Fargo mayor said. And he's right. If you didn't know any better, you wouldn't think there's a flood problem in Moorhead.
South Fargo -- Most of the area will be "buttoned up" today, the Army Corps of Engineers said.
Will close University Drive if the water gets over 40 feet.
"We're diking where we've never diked before," one official said.
Preparing to close sewers. Sewage systems are "keeping up."
The goal was 200,000 per day, then 250,000 per day, now trying to get 300,000 a day. They put out a call for volunteers on Monday. A second central sandbagging location was set up on Monday. 280,000 bags were filled on Monday, overnight, another 170,000 bags were filled. "We think we hit the 450,000 bag mark yesterday," an official said to applause.
"The bad news is we still need more. We need to continue making sandbags through Saturday in case we need to fortify levees," he said.
Classes have been canceled at North Dakota State University until further notice. About 3,200 students have been filling sandbags.(8 Comments)
Things were looking pretty bleak for the folks who live on Riverview Circle in Moorhead. They had started sandbagging last weekend. "People were in denial," one resident told me this afternoon. Denial that the river would rise faster than they've seen it, or climb the banking that separates their 1970s-era homes and the Red River, which has every intention of moving in.
That's when these kids from Hillcrest Lutheran Academy in Fergus Falls showed up to help fill sandbags...
... which were delivered by a skid-loader to the driveway of the homes, where these kids from Fergus Falls High School (they were allowed to come as long as they had a C average or above), formed a chain gang to get them to the backyard...
... which was a great relief to Donna and Todd Morse...
... and their next-door neighbor John Brummer.
Their dike, which stretches south along the meandering river from I-94 for more than a mile, has just been built up to 42 feet above flood stage. They're hoping it's enough.
Why are they smiling? Because the kids were smiling, they said.
I'll have more from all of them later this afternoon and I'll be checking in with them as the flood crest approaches
The one question that keeps getting e-mailed to me is "what do they do with the sandbags once the flood is over?" Fortunately, All Things Considered's Tom Crann was on the case, and got the answer from Ken Hellevang, an Extension Service agent at North Dakota State University.
"Normally the bags will be removed and the sand reclaimed and used for the normal kinds of construction projects that we'd use the sand for. A lot it will end up in concrete," he said. Listen
You can find the entire interview here.
Residents, however, won't have the considerable help getting the sandbags out that they had putting them in. How are you going to spend your summer? Theirs is now mostly spoken for.
So that's one flood mystery out of the way, let's move on to #2.
Why do TV reporters insist on doing this? If this were the story of, say, a manure lagoon, would they wade in?
HOW TO HELP
I've gotten a few questions today on how to help. Assuming that means you're interested in coming to the Fargo-Moorhead area, call 701-476-4000, which is the First Link volunteer line. I don't have any information for you on the Grand Forks area, but it's worth noting that the flooding wasn't expected to be bad there, and today the region sent several busloads of volunteers to Fargo.
If you do drive out, bring a map. They're closing the off-ramp to Moorhead (I-75) off I-94 on Wednesday morning so they can build a dike across it.
I posted a presentation below about the involvement by this region's young people. Here's my appearance on tonight's All Things Considered, discussing it more. Listen
The flood crest was expected in Fargo on Friday. From the looks of the latest projection, however, it now looks like Sunday morning.
Todd and Donna Morse weren't around for the Great Flood of 1997 -- they lived in Coon Rapids then -- but they've quickly learned the art of flood protection against a river that has a penchant for taking detours through neighborhoods like theirs in Moorhead.
As she stood next to a backyard swimming pool where the flood of '97 stopped, Donna said her neighbors who were here in 1997 have been saying how surprised they are about how fast the Red River is rising toward them this year.
When I visited with them on Tuesday, they -- and dozens of volunteers from a school in Fergus Falls -- were putting the finishing touches on the portion of the neighborhood sandbag wall that will stop growing when it reaches 42 feet.
Then they wait.
"(We'll) keep our pumps ready and keep watching it closely and see what we need to do," Donna said. "We've plugged drains in the basement; we've hauled stuff up from the basement in case it breaches on the other side."
They got a boost from the kids on Tuesday morning. "We were out doing it and they came around the corner like the cavalry," she said.
When I took the picture above, I said they looked awfully happy for having a flood on the doorstep. So they gave me this:
Now we wait. John Brummer of Moorhead is finished with his portion of the giant sandbag dike that snakes along the Red River south from I-94. With any luck at all, he'll get some sleep soon.
A crest that's taking longer than expected, and thousands of young volunteers working harder than anyone could have imagined have some people in the neighborhood feeling better about things.
"I heard one guy say, 'I'd like to say I'm feeling good, but you're still nervous,' and doing these little things like plugging these drain tiles, it provides better sleep medicine," he told me on Tuesday.
"The college kids, high school kids and elementary kids have been fantastic. That keeps our attitude going in the right direction," he said. "You feel all alone the week before. How are we going to get this done and woe is me, but when these guys show up, it's 'let's have a party.'"
MPR's Tom Roberson did a great job describing how things have changed in Fargo-Moorhead from the devastating flood of 1997. Brummer has one more for the list: better coordination between public safety officials and the homeowners.
"Dean from the Moorhead Fire Department (below) has been tremendous. Those guys are going around, shooting elevation on the sandbags, and letting us know whether we're too high or two low," he said. The locals are getting plenty of help from their counterparts in the Twin Cities. Firefighters from the Eden Prairie and Hopkins fire departments were stationed in Brummer's neighborhood.
Out back, Brummer was ready for one final task. "We're going to pull the plastic over (the sandbags) and it'll be Miller time."