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Published March 19 2010

Moorhead mayor urges vigilance as next step

“Now is the time to be vigilant,” Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland said Thursday as the city announced dike building was largely completed.

“We have to make sure we don’t become so complacent that we lose something just because it was there and we expected it to stay,” said Voxland, who was back in Moorhead after a trip to Washington, D.C., where he updated Minnesota’s congressional delegation on this spring’s flooding and progress on permanent flood protection planning.

The city closed its volunteer center at Nemzek Hall on the Minnesota State University Moorhead campus at noon Thursday, but the city’s call center, at (218) 299-5300, will be staffed from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. through today, with calls transferred to emergency dispatchers after that.

Moorhead has 50,000 sandbags in heated storage, City Manager Michael Redlinger said. Volunteers placed an estimated 350,000 bags in the city’s most vulnerable neighborhoods.

City staff and National Guard soldiers will monitor dikes through the weekend and beyond.

Moorhead and Clay County are hoping to recoup some of the costs of fighting this spring’s flood thanks to a presidential disaster declaration.

Voxland said Moorhead has already spent more than $500,000 of its reserve funds on flood preparation efforts.

Mark Ewens of the National Weather Service said the 38-foot crest forecast for the area remains unchanged: “It’s very good news that the weather has cooperated.”

That crest is anticipated to happen sometime Sunday evening.

Ewens warned that because the rise in the Red River has been so gradual, the area can expect the river’s recession to be very gradual, too.

“Water will be on these dikes for quite a while,” Ewens said.

Reporter Dave Olson contributed to this report. Readers can reach Forum reporter Mila Koumpilova at (701) 241-5529.