Minnesota, North Dakota Residents BraceFor Potentially Disastrous Flooding

Crews shored up earthen dikes Tuesday to protect cities and rural homes from the swollen Red River and its tributaries, and fought to break up ice jams that threatened bridges.

The river seemed to stabilize at Wahpeton, even falling a couple of inches, but more rain was forecast this week.

Rising rivers also threatened homes in wide areas of Minnesota.

Two farm families in Richland County, outside Wahpeton, were evacuated as the Wild Rice River rushed overland Monday. The river crested near Abercrombie later Monday at just over 25 feet. Flood stage is 10 feet.

"Within 20 minutes it was up in the yard, and coming in behind us," said Carol Hallett, who watched as the water threatened her home.

Workers in Traill County, north of Fargo, returned to work Tuesday morning trying to break up a mile-long ice jam on the Red River that threatened a bridge connecting North Dakota and Minnesota.

Crews had worked late into the night Monday and estimated they had the job about 80 percent completed, said county highway superintendent Scott Stammen. He said the 450-foot span is an important link for farmers in the region.

The river, which flows north along the North Dakota-Minnesota state line, was at 16.67 feet, more than 6 feet above flood stage, Tuesday at Wahpeton, but that was down about 2 inches from Monday.

Only scattered showers were likely Tuesday in the area where rivers had been swollen by heavy rain during the weekend and melting snow.

"However, unfortunately, we're looking at more heavy rain developing in that area into Wednesday and continuing into Thursday," National Weather Service meteorologist Robin Turner said.

More than an inch of rain could fall on the southern Red River Valley, causing the Red to rise to 46 feet at Grand Forks by Thursday.

The record flood of 1997 reached 54.35 feet in Grand Forks, which was evacuated after the river overwhelmed dikes.

In Fargo, city and Army Corps of Engineers crews continued to build emergency dikes to a river level of 37 feet. A crest of 36 feet, or 19 feet above flood stage, was forecast late Thursday.

"The only wild card is the rain on Thursday," Fargo Public Works Operations Manager Dennis Walaker said.

Elsewhere in the Red River Valley, a state of emergency was declared at Crookston, Minn., where ice jams threatened flooding on the Red Lake River.

In central Minnesota, about 100 Benton County homes were threatened by rising water on the upper Mississippi River, upstream from Minneapolis, and flood warnings were posted along the river downstream in southeastern Minnesota. Crews also were reinforcing levees at Montevideo and Granite Falls along the Minnesota River.

An area of about 40 homes on the west side of Montevideo faced the possibility of an evacuation on Tuesday.

At St. Paul, Minn., the downtown Holman Field airport was expected to shut down Wednesday as water rises on the Mississippi. Up to 200 planes are based at the riverside field, which was closed for a month during the 1997 floods.