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Published June 19 2010

West Fargo sewers couldn’t handle deluge

The intense rainfall that hit West Fargo early Thursday and caused widespread flash flooding across parts of the city was just one of those freak incidents – not a mark of the city’s infrastructure, officials said.

Portions of West Fargo were doused with more than 4 inches of rain in less than an hour and a half when storms passed through the area Thursday morning.

As the rain gushed down, it overburdened the city’s storm sewer system, causing water to pool above ground in certain neighborhoods, along 13th Avenue South and in older portions of West Fargo.

“There isn’t a storm sewer system in the state that could handle 4 inches in an hour and 15 minutes,” said Barry Johnson, West Fargo public works director. “It just ponded on the streets because it has to go somewhere, and when it quit raining, it all went away.”

Officials were trying to determine Friday how rare that kind of massive rainfall is.

But even though the flash flooding was significant, it doesn’t mean the city’s infrastructure needs an overhaul, Johnson said.

“It really has nothing to do with bad infrastructure – that isn’t the case at all. It was just a huge event,” he said. “And when it happens so infrequently, you typically don’t want to spend all that money to handle something like this if it happens only once every 25 years.”

But some new measures have been taken in recent years because of the city’s exponential growth and development of new subdivisions, said West Fargo Planning Director Larry Weil.

Stronger retention restrictions have been put in place to minimize problems like Thursday’s, and some infrastructure upgrades have been made in older areas of the city, Weil said.

Although the rain brought much of West Fargo to a standstill on Thursday, it disappeared almost as quickly as it came and left behind only minimal damage.

A street sign and some public-owned boulevards near flooded roadways saw slight damage. Otherwise, problems tended to be isolated to the small number of homes that saw water back-up because of sump pumps failing, Johnson said.


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