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Dave Olson, Published April 11 2011

Highway now a waterway: 31 miles of Interstate 29 north of Fargo closed due to flooding

ARGUSVILLE, N.D. – This community just north of Fargo was the scene of two water rescues Sunday as flooding in the area forced the closing of 31 miles of Interstate 29 and prompted officials in nearby Harwood and Casselton to the southwest to halt water use.

The North Dakota Department of Transportation Sunday afternoon closed I-29 between exits 69 and 100 until further notice after several inches of water began coursing over 12 miles of highway between mile markers 72 and 84.

A detour sent traffic through Casselton and Blanchard between Cass County Road 20 just north of Fargo and North Dakota Highway 200 just south of Hillsboro. The detour is about 33 miles longer than the stretch of interstate it replaces.

Before the highway was closed early Sunday evening, the flooding was causing an hour delay for northbound traffic, according to Bob Walton, district engineer for the department of transportation.

The expanse of water in the area reminded one highway official of Devils Lake:

“As far as you can see, it’s water,” said Bruce Nord, maintenance superintendent for the transportation department.

Nord said the stretch of highway hasn’t experienced severe flooding conditions since the early ’70s. The affected portion of the interstate had been rebuilt in recent years, but not raised.

Nord warned that the interstate in this area could be closed for several days.


Video: Water across I-29


Sewer woes

Casselton officials issued a plea Sunday afternoon asking residents to stop using water, as the city’s sanitary sewer system was backing up due to heavy inflows into the system.

The situation was similar in Harwood, where residents were also being asked to restrict water use due to sewer problems.

Casselton and Harwood resident were told to make sure sump pumps were discharging outside and not into the sanitary sewer.

Casselton officials also warned that the detour resulting from the closure of I-29 would be sending additional traffic through town.

Overland flooding caused widespread problems in Cass County on Sunday.

County officials reported that at least 60 miles of county roadways were impassable.

The cost of repairing the roads will likely be high, according to North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who spoke at a news conference in Fargo.

“It doesn’t take long to add up to millions in damages,” Dalrymple said.

Cass County Administrator Bonnie Johnson said overland flooding on county roads is expected to be an issue for at least the next week.

“Our advice as it’s always been is, ‘Turn around, don’t drown,’ ” she said.

Successful rescues

The North Dakota National Guard and the Cass County Sheriff’s Office conducted two flood rescues near Argusville on Sunday.

In one, a woman called authorities to report that her son, Jordan Richards, was trapped in a tractor stuck on County Road 4 near Argusville.

Cass County boat teams located the tractor and all of its occupants were transported to safety.

The Sheriff’s Office was called about 3:30 p.m. to 2551 173rd Ave. SE in rural Argusville on a report of a dike that broke.

Five people, ranging in age from 10 to 57, as well as a dog, were safely evacuated by Cass County airboats.

Meanwhile, three teens who were feared missing in the flood were found safe Saturday night.

Concerned parents of the teens from Fargo, West Fargo and Casselton contacted the Cass County Sheriff’s Office when they hadn’t heard from the boys, said Sheriff Paul Laney.

The teens, who were attending the Casselton prom, were found safe.

“They just weren’t where they were supposed to be,” Laney said.


Reporter Heidi Shaffer contributed to this report.

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