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Erik Burgess, Published April 02 2013

Northside residents advised to get ready now

FARGO – Unfortunately, Sue Rydell has gotten pretty used to flood fighting.

Rydell lives on Royal Oaks Drive, north of Fargo, which juts out into the Red River, but her home has managed to stay dry during major floods in 2009, 2010 and 2011. She thanks the city and neighborhood volunteers for her relative peace of mind.

“They do a great job,” she said. “That’s why I’m not so worried.”

Dozens of homeowners on the city’s north side were advised Tuesday night in an informational meeting at Longfellow School to start preparing their properties now for a 38-foot spring flood.

In its latest forecast, the National Weather Service says the Red River has a 50 percent chance to hit that mark. It has a 10 percent chance of exceeding 40.9 feet, topping the 40.82-foot flood of record in 2009.

To build protections up to 40 feet, those living north of Main Avenue along the river will need to throw about 60,000 sandbags, said City Engineer April Walker.

If the spring thaw continues as it has, Walker said sandbag levees could start going up at the end of next week.

Those who will have sandbags in their backyards need to clear the snow away now so that any ice below can begin to melt, said Ken Hellevang, an NDSU extension engineer.

Sandbags can’t be laid on icy ground, otherwise river water can slip under the bags once the ice begins to melt, creating an “ice channel” and potentially destroying the levee, Hellevang said.

Homeowners will be charged with regularly inspecting dikes behind their houses and reporting any problems to the city. City staff appropriated in sectors along the river will also inspect levees and be points of contact for residents.

Rydell and other residents Tuesday night had concerns that flood mitigation done in Moorhead could force water onto the Fargo side. Walker said both cities have gone through rigorous processes to analyze flood structures and make sure “significant impacts” are mitigated.

Other residents asked if Fargo planned on installing contingency levees for above a 38-foot event. Walker said the city has a contingency plan if the river were to rise to a 41-foot level, but the city’s primary goal is to build to 40 feet of protection, which would protect against a 38-foot flood with 2 feet of freeboard.

Deputy Mayor and City Commissioner Tim Mahoney said there is still some time before the river starts flowing and a flood materializes, but early signs are good.

“We’ve had a wonderful melt, and I think we’re all encouraged with the melt,” he said.

Sandbag Central is open for volunteers today at 8 a.m. in Fargo’s solid waste department, 2301 8th Ave. N., with the goal of making 1 million bags to share evenly between the city and Cass County.

Fargo homeowners looking for information on their property can call (701) 476-4199. Volunteers can call (701) 476-4000 or visit volunteer


Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518