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Dave Olson, Published May 30 2013

VIDEOS: Rain overwhelms roads, homes in Fargo-Moorhead area

FARGO - The phones started ringing early Thursday at Innovative Basement Systems in Fargo, and they didn’t stop.

By noon, more than 60 people had called to make appointments to have waterproofing done on basements after thunderstorms dropped more than 4 inches of rain over some parts of the Fargo-Moorhead area.

The rains caused street flooding in some areas that continued into Thursday morning and dampened more than a few basements, particularly in West Fargo and north Fargo.

“We set up a pile of appointments,” said Jim Laven, marketing manager for Innovative Basement Systems, which installs internal drain tiles around basements and also does reinforcement work when basement walls threaten to collapse.

Laven said they are seeing more and more of the latter, as the area’s extremely dry soils start to absorb large amounts of water and begin expanding like a sponge.

Wednesday night’s rains did much to dampen any remaining dry spots in the region. Fargo’s Hector International Airport reported 4.5 inches of rain as by 7 a.m. Thursday, while Moorhead reported 2.85 inches, said Dave Kellenbenz, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Forks.

Kellenbenz said areas reporting the most rainfall included parts of Clay County, including a spot north of Moorhead where 5.25 inches of rain was reported. He said radar indicated as much as 5-6 inches may have fallen in the Ulen, Minn., area and 6-8 inches may have fallen near Averill, Minn., seven miles north of Glyndon.

WDAY meteorologist Daryl Ritchison said 3 to 5 inches fell along on a line of heavy rain from West Fargo into north Fargo and northern Clay County.

Streets overwhelmed

In West Fargo, the Interstate 94 exit for Sheyenne Street flooded early Thursday, closing westbound until mid-afternoon.

City officials in Fargo said street flooding in the area around the industrial park in the area of 15th Avenue North kept some employees from getting to work Thursday morning.

Lee Anderson, Fargo’s supervisor of public works, said the rain that fell in north Fargo was simply too much for the drainage system to handle.

Bryan Green, Clay County emergency management director, said rains Wednesday night overwhelmed a lift station in Ulen, and the streets on the west side of town flooded, with some water getting into structures like garages.

He said a small number of township roads in the county were underwater Thursday morning. The area near Highway 9 and County Road 26 was particularly hard hit.

Entire sections of farmland in that area were filled with water, Green said, adding that a large drainage ditch was full of water by noon Thursday.

“It’s just raging,” he said.

Andrew Rockhold, a Fargo Street Department worker who was monitoring an intersection at 15th Avenue and 39th Street North early Thursday, said several cars became stalled in that area after drivers attempted to navigate water that was too deep.

He added that a number of city workers told him they had to battle flooding in their basements before going to work.

Basement issues

An employee with Paul Davis Restoration and Remodeling said that by 10:20 a.m. Thursday the company had logged about 25 calls from people with water in their basements.

Larry Haarstad said many of the homes were in West Fargo and involved cases where sump pumps either couldn’t keep up or burned out trying to stay ahead of seeping water.

Bill Modrich, an agent with Country Financial in Fargo, said the insurance company was inundated with calls Thursday morning from policyholders looking to make sure they were covered for sump pump issues.

Modrich said most pumps were covered, though he added the rainstorm underscored the wisdom of opting for more rather than less coverage when it came to things like sump pumps.

Haarstad said when water does collect in a home, it is essential to remove the water quickly to prevent it from reaching sheetrock.

Once water is removed, he said it is important to elevate carpeting and to dehumidify the space as fast as possible.

Laven said things like power braces and wall anchors are good ways to address basements walls bulging from the pressure of soaked soil.

Issues for homeowners could get worse before they get better.

Weather service meteorologist Brad Hopkins said another half-inch to three-quarter inches could fall in Fargo-Moorhead from Thursday afternoon into late tonight, with heavier rain possible in isolated areas during widely scattered storms.

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