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Published March 18 2010

Focus put on rural Cass County

Cass County’s emergency response team is preparing to step up the flood fight in rural areas outside of Fargo as the Red River heads toward its expected Sunday crest.

“The Red River corridor looks like it’s building up to do its thing and go away,” Sheriff Paul Laney said early Wednesday at a briefing of county, state and federal law enforcement. “For the rest of the metro area, life’s going to go back to normal. For us, it’s not.”

Laney said problems are likely along the Wild Rice River and the Sheyenne River near Kindred to the south of Fargo and Harwood to the north, where overland flooding has been an issue in the past.

“Things are going to change rapidly over the next couple days,” he predicted.

But Laney said he feels better prepared to fight the flood conditions this year, after lessons learned from the 2009 experience.

“It’s a much more controlled chaos this year,” Laney said. “It’s not a Mach 3, with our hair on fire.”

By Saturday – when the Sheyenne River at Harwood is forecast to be at its crest level of 891.5 feet – County Road 81 North and other Harwood-area roadways could be unusable. Overland flooding likely will cut off access routes into the city, like the 2009 flood did, Laney said.

In preparation for the next few days, Cass County deputies dispersed throughout the area Wednesday on daily patrols as part of the emergency response team, which Laney activated early Tuesday.

The team includes all county deputies pulled from their regular assignments and any state or federal agencies that assist with the flood fight. Laney had the team activated for six weeks during last year’s flood battle.

Jarrod Lee, division supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was the first federal authority on the ground in Cass County early Wednesday.

Officials and equipment from the Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Coast Guard and Customs and Border Patrol also arrived later Wednesday.

In areas south of Fargo, the Red continues to pose a threat to some homes along the river, but overland flooding likely won’t be a concern this year.

“On the fields, the water was cruising there last year, but it just isn’t there this year,” said Cass County Deputy Greg Dawkins as he drove a patrol car along County Road 81 South.

Deputies checked in on residents who were preparing their homes for flooding along the river and offered extra help from law enforcement resources.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541