HENDRUM, Minn. – Jon Grothe parked his equipment on a high spot and then rolled up his sleeves and got down to work, stacking sandbags around his farmhouse with a handful of friends.
Nearly a decade ago, his house, sheds and corn bins were swamped by one of the biggest floods ever to hit the region. Though water crept to within 30 feet of the makeshift dike Tuesday, so far, the sandbags have worked.
"I heard about (possible flooding) Saturday, then spent Sunday trying to digest whether that was realistic or not," he said. "Then I decided it was silly not to take this seriously."
Nearly everyone in this hamlet of 315 people is taking precautions against rising water, having learned lessons from the flood of 1997. Then, hundreds of workers rushed to frantically pile sandbags atop an earthen levee that surrounds the town to limit flooding.
Swollen with melting snow and heavy rain, the Red River has spread across its broad valley. It was peaking in Fargo, N.D., at about 37 feet late Tuesday. Flood stage in Fargo is 18 feet and the crest was projected at around 37.5 feet. In Grand Forks, the river was rising quickly and could crest at 47.5 feet, said meteorologist Greg Gust of the National Weather Service.
"For both Fargo and Grand Forks, those crests are going to be coming in here in the next 24 hours," he said.
Water neared the back door of the Kragnes Inn, but the basement remained dry, owner Pat Carlson said. "So far I'm OK," Carlson said, knocking on her wooden bar. "Some other people in town haven't been so lucky."
Earlier this week, Gov. Tim Pawlenty authorized the mobilization of 135 National Guard troops to work in Clay and Norman counties to help with dike patrols, security and traffic control. He added Roseau County on Tuesday.
In Hendrum, city officials had to blow the town horn earlier this week to summon a few dozen residents to join students and other volunteers sandbagging houses in the countryside.
Pawlenty took an aerial tour of the Red River valley Tuesday morning and said most residents are holding their own.
"In general, this is a situation that is concerning and challenging," the governor said outside the Moorhead National Guard Armory. "But in most areas it's under control and things are going to be OK."
The Wild Rice River at Hendrum was expected to crest Wednesday less than a foot below the record level of 33.9 feet. That was too close for comfort for Pam Dukletch, the owner of the Last Chance Saloon. She moved to Hendrum after the 1997 flood ruined her home in nearby Ada.
"This brings back memories of (1997), and I don't care to think about that," she said.