Fargo-Moorhead puts final touches on flood prepby Dan Gunderson, Minnesota Public Radio
Moorhead, Minn. — It's quiet along the riverfront in Fargo Moorhead. Most of the sandbag dikes are in place.
A two person survey crew hikes through the mud and snow, checking the height of dozens of sandbag dikes in a 30 block stretch of south Moorhead.
Dustin Buchholtz carries a GPS unit and sets it on top of a sandbag dike, giving a digital readout of the elevation. It's about a foot short.
"[It's] 38.8 [feet]. They need 1.2 to 40." he said.
Steven Kapfer pounds a wooden stake with a pink ribbon tied to the top into the muddy ground next to the dike. He uses a magic marker to draw a line showing the recommended 40 foot level.
The homeowners aren't around, but when they return they'll see that the the dike needs a few more sandbags to ensure it's safely above the expected river level.
People in Fargo-Moorhead will spend Thursday putting the finishing touches on sandbag dikes and preparing for the Red River to crest this weekend.
As the survey crew works their way through backyards, they meet Moorhead city employee Peter Doll, who's on an inspection of the neighborhood. He's concerned because he's found many of the dikes at about a foot short of the recommended 40 foot height.
Doll adds the information to an electronic database the city uses to track sandbag dike construction.
"There's two levels of concern," he said. "One is private property, and the second is if this house floods, does it go further? A lot of these homes have walk out basements and it makes the home quite vulnerable, but not the community."
Even if the lower level of this home flooded at a river level of 39 or 40 feet, the water would not reach the street.
One dike on this block is 40 feet. Another is 39 feet. The next is 38.5 feet.
Doll said the homeowners might be planning to add another foot to the dike, or they might be confident the dike is high enough to withstand the predicted river crest.
"You know, some people can't sleep at night and the next person can't be bothered," he said. "People are different and people have been here different amounts of time. We can't force people to protect their property but we do have to protect the public infrastructure."
Sandbag dikes are the first line of defense for public infrastructure in parts of the city. In this neighborhood, even if the lower level of a home floods, the water won't reach the street.
It's likely survey crews will be back through this area again before the weekend to see if low dikes have been raised to 40 feet.
Ken Mikula is just about ready to wrap plastic sheeting over his just completed sandbag dike.
"We're where the city said we should be," Mikula said. "If Mother Nature changes on us we might be scrambling some more. Hopefully we're in good shape."
That's what city leaders are hoping too. Moorhead City Manager Michael Redlinger wants finishing touches put on dikes today.
"This is the final push. Now is the time to wrap up our work and get our people rested up and ready to monitor what we've built over the long haul," Redlinger says. "We're going to have water on bags for some time."
As the water rises against the newly constructed sandbag dikes, homeowners will start the 24-hour vigil, watching for leaks as they wait for Sundays expected crest.
- Morning Edition, 03/18/2010, 7:25 a.m.