Crookston orders voluntary evacuation; other Red River towns preparing for flood
Communities all along the Red River Valley are preparing for the floodwaters to come.
Authorities in Crookston called for the voluntary evacuation of about 200 people in low-lying areas, after an ice jam led to a sudden rise on the Red Lake River.
The river was near the top of city dikes and rising, though the ice jam had broken and officials hoped to see the river begin falling.
While the ice jam has already broken up, Police Chief Tim Motherway says the river is still rising and they don't know how high it will go. He says they're hoping it will start to drop soon.
A shelter was set up for evacuees at the University of Minnesota's Crookston campus.
Crookston is about 50 miles northeast of Fargo.
The Red River in Wahpeton and neighboring Breckenridge, Minn., is expected to crest at a lower level than earlier forecast.
The National Weather Service lowered its crest forecast for Wahpeton, N.D., and Breckenridge, Minn., downward to 18 feet by Wednesday morning, well below those cities' dikes.
The weather service revised its Wahpeton prediction because it got new data from river gauges to replace a computer-modeled prediction.
Flood stage in the two cities is 10 feet. The record is 19.4 feet set in the flood of 1997.
National Guard soldiers from North Dakota and Minnesota, along with street department workers and fire departments, have been patrolling the dikes protecting Wahpeton-Breckenridge.
The dikes can withstand water levels of 21 to 23 feet.
No sandbagging is going on right now. More than 2 inches of rain fell Monday, causing street flooding, but streets are clear now and no homes have been flooded.
The Red was expected to crest at Fargo between 39 and 41 feet by Saturday morning, though an updated forecast was due from the weather service later Tuesday. That would top the 1997 flood level of 39.6 feet.
An emergency dike to protect downtown Fargo was being raised to 42 feet, but the crest threatens several neighborhoods and hundreds of homes in lower areas.
Flood stage is 18 feet. The river was at 25 feet Monday and rising.
Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland says 65 percent to 70 percent of the needed sandbags are now in place. He says Fargo-Moorhead got great help Monday in sandbagging from local college students.
Voxland says sandbagging will continue Tuesday and should wrap up Wednesday.
Grand Forks officials are closing the Point Bridge between Grand Forks and neighboring East Grand Forks, Minn.
City spokesman Kevin Dean says the bridge usually closes when the Red River reaches a level of 45 feet. He says that's not expected to happen until Thursday, but city officials are doing it early because they think the river will rise quickly.
He also says snow and ice in the forecast will make it more difficult to close the bridge.
Two other bridges link the two cities. The Sorlie Bridge also is expected to be closed this week. The Kennedy Bridge would close if the river reaches a river level of about 52 feet.
The Greenway in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks has been closed.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)