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Dave Olson, Published March 10 2010

FLOOD UPDATE: Moorhead, Clay County declare emergencies

Moorhead residents will have a single number to call if they have flood questions this spring, city officials said Tuesday, and Clay County officials warned that rural residents should get ready for possible overland flooding.

“You, too, have to be prepared,” Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist said at a news conference at which Clay County Commission Chairman Kevin Campbell and Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland discussed the states of emergency that have been declared for their respective flood preparations.

They said the declarations are a first step in possibly receiving financial and other forms of assistance from the state and federal governments.

Campbell said there is no guarantee the county and city will be reimbursed for what they spend getting ready for a flood.

Bergquist said there is a strong chance for overland flooding this year. He advised anyone living in a rural area to plan for the possibility their homes could be cut off by water.

He also urged people to sign up for the CodeRED alert system, which calls telephone numbers with important information in times of emergency.

Contact info

County residents can sign up by going to the county’s Web site at www.co.clay.mn.us, or by calling the Sheriff’s Department at (218) 299-5151.

Moorhead residents were also encouraged to sign up for CodeRED by going to the city’s Web site at www.cityofmoorhead.com, or by calling (218) 299-5305.

Voxland said as river levels rise, the city will steer most flood questions to a single phone number: (218) 299-5300.

“Making it simpler is what we really are trying to do this year,” Voxland said.

Unprecedented prep

Voxland said the city of Moorhead’s mantra this year is “preparing now, so we don’t have to panic in the future,” pointing out the city is taking the unprecedented step of prefilling sandbags ahead of a flood.

Moorhead is about a third of the way to meeting its goal of filling 300,000 sandbags that will help protect homes in Moorhead.

Voxland said production will likely step up when two sandbag filling machines arrive later this week.

The machines, which can each fill 5,000 sandbags an hour, will require about 50 volunteers each to operate at peak efficiency, officials said.

Voxland said Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty will be in Moorhead today to review the city’s flood preparations, which include millions of dollars spent on things such as flood gates on sewer lines to the river and buying out flood-prone homes near the Red River.

“What we want to do is show the governor how we’ve prepared,” Voxland said. “We have been working with the (Minnesota) Department of Natural Resources to really flood-proof Moorhead a lot better than we’ve ever been in the past.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555