Residents continue to monitor dikes, pumps along Red Riverby Dan Gunderson, Minnesota Public Radio
The Red River continues to fall steadily. That means residents along the river can take a breath, but many have still been watching pumps and checking dikes now buried under snow.
Moorhead, MN — Snow is falling heavily, turning the sandbag dike behind John Widner's house into a big snowdrift. Widner is scraping the ice and snow from his car windows. He says the water is almost off his dike and the snow makes it hard to even see the pump that spews seepage back into the river.
"Actually, I've got a gas pump doing down there now and I want to switch over to electric but there's too much snow back there to monkey around, so I'm going to leave it as is," Widner says.
Widner says he almost lost his house on Saturday. Only a quick response by volunteer sandbaggers helped him stop a breach that threatened to fill his basement with water. "I'm really tickled at what's happened," he says. "I am. I slept last night. I got a full nights rest. We were only checking our dikes every two hours instead of continuously. It's wonderful. So though these are some pretty miserable conditions, I'm feeling pretty good about the world right now."
Widner says even the potential for a second crest in two weeks can't diminish the sense of victory he feels now.
"It can't be any worse than what we went through," he says. "So I guess I'm optimistic that even if it comes up again we're going to be ready for it. I'm not worrying about it. I'm not very happy about it but I'm not worried about it. "
Optimism seems to be the consensus in this south Moorhead neighborhood.
Steve Schaefer has a permanent earthen levee in his back yard, it's good to a river level of 38 feet.
"And then the sandbags go up to 43 so we've got about 5 feet of them up there," Schaefer says. "I guess if we added the snow up there we're 48 feet 6 inches."
Schaefer and a friend have covered pumps with tarps to keep off the snow. The dike offers protection from the wind, and a fire in a small fireplace warms the area.
Schaefer is already thinking ahead to the next two weeks.
"I'm kind of a planner anyway so I'm shifting gears to what do we have to do to get ready for the next crest when it comes and we'll relax a little bit in between," he says. "Starting to think about bringing my kids back to the house and how long can they stay. Sort of just having contingencies ready."
Schafer says friends keep coming by to bring food and watch the pumps so he can take a break. This snowstorm is a good thing, he says. Had it been rain instead, it would have caused worse flooding. "That's the other thing I've done throughout this whole episode, trying to look for the silver linings," he says. "My wife keeps reminding me we chose to live on the river and with that you sort of choose to have to deal with these. Nobody anticipated this level but we knew every so often we'd have to fight some floods."
Schaefer and his neighbors will have a week or so to rest before gearing up for another flood fight as the river rises again in mid April.
- Morning Edition, 04/01/2009, 6:50 a.m.