National Guard mobilized to fight Red River
Fargo, ND — (AP) Gov. Pawlenty has authorized the mobilization of 135 Minnesota National Guard soldiers to support the flood fighting in northwestern Minnesota.
The activation came Sunday at the request of Clay and Norman counties.
The soldiers will report to Moorhead by noon Monday. They'll help local authorities by providing dike patrols, security and logistical support.
Meanwhile, city officials in Fargo told residents to take flood warnings seriously as volunteers in eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota worked to protect buildings from rising waters.
Fargo Mayor Bruce Furness said the city should be in good shape, as long as it doesn't rain.
"We think we're on top of the situation," Furness said Sunday. "But we don't want people to get complacent."
The National Weather Service expects the Red River to crest in the Fargo area on Wednesday, at 37 feet. Flood stage is 18 feet. It would equal the second-worst flood of the century, said Dennis Walaker, Fargo public works director.
"We're in a major flood," Walaker said Sunday. "It's time to get started."
In Crookston, Minn., officials set up an emergency shelter on Saturday and called for a voluntary evacuation in neighborhoods near the Red Lake River, said Allen Wagner, Polk County emergency management director.
"I don't think there were very many people who left," Wagner said Sunday. "It was mainly for people who may have had a problem getting around."
Wagner said the river had dropped about half a foot by noon on Sunday.
"We're feeling a little bit better," he said. "Right now we're sitting with an ice jam east of Crookston, so we're keeping an eye on that."
Workers in Fargo were building temporary levees, which forced many streets to close. About 80 athletes from North Dakota State University were among the volunteers helping to fill sandbags, Furness said.
The city hoped to have 40,000 sandbags in reserve, the mayor said.
Police were going to start ticketing cars in areas near dikes, Furness said. He said there were reports of children playing on the earthen levees.
"It's a safety issue," Furness said.
About 75,000 sandbags had been delivered to rural residents in Cass County, said Dave Rogness, county coordinator. Most of them went to people south of Fargo, he said.
"The hots spots right now are along the Red and Wild Rice rivers," Rogness said Sunday. Some homes north of Fargo were being threatened by overland flooding and some county roads were closed, he said.
The National Weather Service said the Red River was cresting in Wahpeton, about 50 miles south of Fargo. It was expected to fluctuate at about 15 feet, 5 feet above flood stage, before slowly falling.
Walaker said the river also reached 37 feet in Fargo in 1969. The worst flood in the last 100 years was in 1997, when the Red River crested at 39.5 feet in Fargo.
The weather service expects the Red River to crest in the Grand Forks area, about 70 miles north of Fargo, at about 47 feet on Thursday. That's about 7 feet above flood stage.
The Red River crested at about 26 feet above flood stage in the 1997 event that wiped out much of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, Minn.