Fox News Weather Center

North Dakota Residents Get Another Day to Prepare for Massive Flood

FARGO, N.D. -- Residents racing to protect homes near the fast-rising Red River got a reprieve when the National Weather Service pushed back its forecast for the crest from Saturday to Sunday.

The new projection shows the river cresting at 20 feet over flood stage in Fargo and neighboring Moorhead, Minn., on Sunday morning. Snowmelt that has yet to enter the system and a new forecast for a second crest upstream led to the change, weather service spokesman Bill Barrett said Tuesday.

"That gives us more time, but we will remain in a state of caution," Moorhead city manager Michael Redlinger said. "We're pleased where are right now. We're on target. Now we may actually have a chance to get ahead of this."

Fargo city administrator Pat Zavoral, though, said the plan there was to have everything done on Friday anyway.

Volunteers were being bused into neighborhoods near the river on Tuesday to help with sandbagging.

Scott Anderson, 15, a student at Fargo Shanley High School, started tossing bags at 10 a.m., and his soccer camp T-shirt was covered in mud and sweat by the end of the day. He said he didn't know the families in any of the three homes he was helping to protect.

"It's part of North Dakota to do this," Anderson said. "Even though you're not family to these people, they are part of your community."

Homeowner Jerry Feder, whose back yard was being lined with a 2-foot sandbag dike, said one group of volunteers vowed to stay until nightfall.

"They are fantastic," Feder said. "And they've already said they're coming back tomorrow."

Last year, thousands of people were evacuated and about 100 homes in the area were damaged after the Red River rose above the flood stage for a record 61 days and crested twice. Officials don't expect the river to get as high this year, but waters flowing over the banks could threaten several houses, roads and parks.

Officials say they are better prepared this year for flooding thanks to early stockpiling of sandbags and the building of stronger levees across the region. Volunteer turnout for sandbagging was steady Tuesday in neighborhoods of Fargo and Moorhead, although county officials were asking for more help.

"The citizens are out there working hard and doing a great job," North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven said.

Miles of clay levees, more than 1 million sandbags and portable wall systems will be used to help protect an area of about 200,000 people in Cass County, N.D., and Clay County, Minn.
Chip Ammerman, volunteer coordinator for Cass County, said turnout was slow for help needed in the rural areas.

"I think tomorrow is going to be a pretty critical day for getting volunteers," Ammerman said. "The overland flooding is getting to be real noticeable."

Officials had asked the community on Monday to step up their efforts to ensure neighborhoods in Fargo and Moorhead were well-guarded. More than 415,000 sandbags were delivered in Fargo and residents cleared out their yards to make way for dikes to be built.

"The feeling of working together here continues to be unusual," Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said. "We put out the plea yesterday to ramp up and they did."

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty declared a state of emergency Monday in 28 counties affected by potential flooding across western, southern, central and eastern parts of the state. The order activated the National Guard to help with flood preparations and provide emergency relief.
Many people are fairly optimistic that they're ready for the flood.

"It's organized chaos, but overall we're feeling very comfortable with the progress," Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney said.

Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist said a handful of residents outside the city left their houses mainly because they don't want to be stranded by overland flooding.

"Everybody has to understand that this is for real," Walaker said.