Fargo-Moorhead prepares for second, possibly higher crestby Stephanie Hemphill, Minnesota Public Radio
Just when people in Fargo-Moorhead were beginning to breathe a little easier, patting each other on the back for the hard work that saved most of their homes and businesses -- they get word that the second crest of the flooding Red River could be worse than the first.
Moorhead, Minn. — The advance outlook from the National Weather Services says there's a 75 percent chance that the river will crest at or above 41 feet. The first crest last Saturday, was 40.8 feet.
For the next week or so that forecast does look fairly dry. The next storm heading our way is expected to stay south of the Red River Valley.
"I think we have to expect the worst," said Pat Zavoral, Fargo's city administrator.
Officials on both sides of the Red knew a second crest was coming, and they've been telling residents not to be in a hurry to dismantle their dikes.
Weather Service officials announced their probability outlook for the second crest. That's agency talk for their best sense of what may happen, but it's a step below an actual crest prediction.
Fargo's mayor, Dennis Walaker, takes the outlook with a grain of salt.
"They think it's possible, I don't believe it's possible, because I've watched this river too many times and I do not see the water right now that they're seeing," Walaker said.
Walaker said he wants people not to worry unnecessarily, and he thinks they should take the weekend to rest up.
After the weekend, Fargo workers will probably try to raise most of the city's dikes to 44 feet. That's to confront the National Weather Service outlook that there's also a 25 percent chance that the flood will reach about 43 feet. Fargo will also build some new contingency dikes, the secondary line of defense against the river.
And for that, city administrator Pat Zavoral said Fargo needs more dirt.
"There's quite a bit of dirt in some of our borrow pits, but it's a long ways to haul, so we've got some logistic issues we have to work out as well," Zavoral said. "But I think we'll be back into flood fighting mode Monday or Tuesday."
In Moorhead, city manager Mike Redlinger is looking on the bright side. He said the outlook that the second crest will hit after the middle of April gives the city more time to prepare. The warning on the first crest only came eight days before it hit.
Redlinger said Moorhead will reinforce some dikes and build new secondary dikes.
"Some of them are slumping because the ground was frozen when dikes were constructed, now when the ground thaws, in some cases you might lose an inch or two because ground has softened," Redlinger said. "So we're going to have survey crews, to check and recheck absolutely everything."
Moorhead's dikes were built to the 43-foot level. The city can add some height to clay dikes, but some of the sandbag dikes are as high as they can go.
Redlinger's message to residents is the same as it's been since the first crest nearly a week ago.
"Number one, don't take them down," Redlinger said. "But number two, make sure you're looking after them, make sure nobody's tampering with the, but also we may need to reinforce them on an as needed basis."
On the Red River, it's not uncommon for the second flood crest to be higher than the first. It all depends on how much snow is on the ground, how fast it melts and how far down the soil is frozen. And of course, it all depends on the weather. Greg Gust is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
"The things that are least favorable would be a rapid warm-up and any type of rain coming into the system," Gust said. "Because a rapid warm-up get waters moving too quickly, rain means immediate runoff. So those are the worst scenarios. As we get into April, the chances of getting that warm-up or getting that rain start to increase."
Gust said it will be a week or so, before the Weather Service can reassess the numbers to offer a more definitive prediction for the second crest.
So even though most people here are desperate for spring, they've got to hope for a couple more weeks of chilly, dry winter weather.
- All Things Considered, 04/03/2009, 5:24 p.m.