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Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, Published April 12 2011

As Red quickly rises, Hendrum rushes to fend off flooding

HENDRUM, Minn. – Mayor Curt Johannsen had a sleepless night here Sunday after Red River floodwaters rose quickly and threatened the southwest part of town.

“Boy, she came up fast when she did,” Johannsen said. “It gave me a queasy feeling in my stomach.”

Leaders initially thought they could wait until 7 a.m. Monday for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to arrive with a contractor to raise the clay levees.

But during the night, water started coming into town near Highway 75, prompting city workers to build a temporary berm and alert corps officials to the situation.

The corps arrived about 3 a.m., just as the temporary fix was giving way.

“If they would have been a couple hours later, it would have been a different story,” Johannsen said.

Corps officials and contractors worked quickly Monday to add 2 feet of clay to the levees that protect Hendrum from the Red River.

“Up until last night, this flood fight had been pretty easy,” he said. “We had to swing into action pretty fast.”

Hendrum, a town of 307 people about 30 miles north of Moorhead, is one mile east of the Red River and a half-mile west of the Wild Rice River.

The National Weather Service said Hendrum will see near-record flood levels due to increasing flows from the Wild Rice and backwater from the Red.

The Wild Rice was at 32.8 feet in Hendrum as of 4 p.m. Monday and expected to crest at 33.6 feet on Wednesday, the weather service said.

The Red River was at 40.4 feet at Halstad, which is about six miles north of Hendrum, at 5:30 p.m. Monday and expected to crest at 40.6 feet late today or Wednesday. The weather service said there is no Red River gauge at Hendrum.

Residents seemed fairly calm as the two rivers converged on their town.

“Everybody’s more prepared, or maybe we’re just used to it,” said Greg Vetter, who has a clay levee in his backyard.

The National Guard has members in Hendrum monitoring the levees and helping with traffic control. About 6,000 sandbags are on reserve for emergencies.

“I’m confident Hendrum is safe,” Johannsen said.

Many residents who commute to Fargo-Moorhead for work will either have to take a long detour or stay home until Highway 75 reopens.

Kids are home from school because the buses can’t drive through the water.

Many rural residents are parking their vehicles on dry land and using boats or tractors to get to their homes.

Iver Buer, who grows organic vegetables on 9½ acres just north of Hendrum, moved into his apartment in town on Friday as floodwaters from the Wild Rice River overtook his property.

“This is worse than ’09,” said Buer, who has more than 8 feet of water in his house.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590