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Dave Olson, Published April 01 2011

Sandbagging could start next week

MOORHEAD – A cold and snowy forecast is pushing back sandbag deployment in both Fargo and Moorhead, likely into next week.

The opening of Moorhead’s volunteer center at Minnesota State University Moorhead’s Nemzek Hall, which had been set for today, has also been postponed.

Fargo city officials said Thursday that sandbag deployment is now planned to start Tuesday, with dike building and volunteer deployment starting Wednesday.

Moorhead officials are adopting a wait-and-see position regarding sandbag deployment.

City Manager Michael Redlinger said Tuesday is a possibility, but weather conditions will dictate when Moorhead pulls the trigger.

Moorhead has 1.8 million sandbags filled and ready to go, Mayor Mark Voxland said.

The city anticipates it will take four days to distribute its sandbags.

Fargo plans to deliver 1.7 million of the 2.5 million sandbags that have been made in preparation of the spring flood.

“We would anticipate by (next) weekend all the bags should be in place, so we should be in pretty good shape,” said Bruce Grubb, enterprise director for the city of Fargo.

Fargo plans to start putting down sandbags Wednesday morning, beginning in the Harwood and Hackberry neighborhoods.

Students from North High, South High and West Fargo High are expected to help, said Jim Gilmour, Fargo’s planning director and coordinator of volunteer sandbag crews.

First Assembly of God in south Fargo will serve as a staging area for volunteers.

Last year, it took two to three days to put bags in place, but this year there will be 2½ times as many bags, Gilmour said.

Redlinger said there should be ample time to put Moorhead dikes in place before a flood arrives.

“There’s certainly enough time to get everything done that we need to get done,” Redlinger said as the Red River expected to be at about 20 feet by Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is continuing to construct clay dikes at around Moorhead.

Corps and city crews have completed six primary dikes in various spots and officials said clay dikes will also be built along Rivershore Drive from 20th Avenue South to the Interstate 94 bridge, an area where many flood-prone homes have been bought out and removed.

Also, the corps will build dikes at the Bluestem Center for the Arts, the Moorhead Public Works facility and St. Francis De Sales Church.

Once sandbag dikes are in place, Moorhead will decide whether secondary clay dikes will be built around town as an extra line of defense.

Moorhead residents are being asked to build their dikes to a height of 43 feet.

He said it will be important for the community to move quickly when conditions allow sandbagging to start.

“It really is going to be critical to have volunteers out, to have homeowners ready to go,” Voxland said.

“We don’t know what April is going to bring.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555. Reporter Patrick Springer provided information for this report.