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Erik Burgess, Published May 01 2013

Crest appears to hit 33.32 feet in Fargo

FARGO – The Red River on Wednesday hit an apparent crest in Fargo-Moorhead just above 33 feet and began its slow descent.

Sandbag removal in Moorhead will begin Friday, while sandbag and levee removal in Fargo could begin in earnest by the middle of next week.

The “provisional crest” for this year’s flood is 33.32 feet, which occurred around 8 a.m. Wednesday, said Mark Ewens, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service. He said that number still has to be confirmed by the U.S. Geological Survey.

A crest of 33.32 feet would be the 12th highest on record, far below the 2009 record of 40.84 feet. Forecasts in mid-April suggested this spring’s flood could approach or top 2009 levels, but an ideal melt made for a lower-than-expected crest.

While there is a slight chance for weekend rain, there is no precipitation that has forecasters worried about a bump in this year’s crest, Ewens said.

In an updated flood outlook released Wednesday, the weather service predicted the river will remain above major flood stage of 30 feet until Sunday.

Fargo could begin removing sandbags and temporary levees as early as Wednesday, said Nathan Boerboom, a division engineer for Fargo. City officials hope to award bids for removal by Monday.

The dike on Second Street will stay in place until the river is at 28 feet and falling, Boerboom said.

Sandbags already placed in backyards will be removed by contracted workers in the same manner that they were placed – plywood will be laid, and skid-steers will remove the bags, Boerboom said.

Residents are not required to remove sandbags from their yards, Boerboom said, but those who want to can place the bags on the curb for city pickup.

Removal of TrapBags will cost around $120,000 and clay removal will cost around $750,000, Boerboom said. The cost of removing sandbags has not yet been calculated, he said.

In Moorhead, residents are responsible for bringing loose sandbags to the gutter on the street, the city said in a press release. Once the bags are placed on the street, call the city’s Operations Department at (218) 299-5422. City crews in Moorhead will be picking up unused bags still on pallets beginning Friday.

Ewens said temperatures will be chilly this week, with nighttime lows dipping below freezing, but he said that’s not uncommon for Fargo, which is statistically “frost susceptible” until May 20.

“We’re pretty fortunate,” Ewens said. “We’ve missed all the really big storms that could’ve caused us problems, and we just have to put up with some more chilly weather for a little while longer.”

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