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Dave Olson and Erik Burgess, Published June 26 2013

VIDEO: Fargo to build Second Street dike to 2 feet; North Broadway Bridge closed

FARGO – Heavy rains Tuesday night are now expected to push the Red River to a crest of 30 feet, and city officials have closed Second Street downtown to build a 2-foot dike.

The Red River level as of 10 a.m. was 25.54 feet. In addition to the downtown dike, the flooding forced the closure of the North Broadway Bridge this morning.

At Hector International Airport, 3.96 inches of rain fell last night, according to the National Weather Service. A rain gauge one mile north of Fargo picked up 4.57 inches, a gauge 1 mile northeast of Fargo collected 4.02 inches and a gauge 1 mile east-southeast of Fargo had 3.81 inches, the weather service reported. Casselton got 3.8 inches, and a gauge 2 miles north of Moorhead collected 3.04 inches, the weather service said. City Engineer April Walker said just before 11 a.m. that the National Weather Service informed her the river will now crest at 30 feet, down from the 31.8-foot forecast earlier today.

Walker said the dike building has already begun on Second Street. The city closed Second Street from Fourth Street South to Main Avenue and from First Avenue North to Sixth Avenue North.

Eleventh Avenue North from Oak Street to Elm Street will be closed to through traffic to allow for easier hauling of clay to Second Street for construction of a dike.

The dike will be just 2 feet high, down from the 4-foot dike planned after the earlier forecast. The dike will run from the railroad tracks just north of Fourth Avenue to First Avenue North.

There will also be some diking on the southern side of Second Street, in front of the Fargo High Rise.

Walker did not yet have a total price estimate as of about 11 a.m. Two contractors are at work and will be paid standard, hourly rates, she said.

Mayor Dennis Walaker said building emergency dikes downtown in the summer is unusual but not unprecedented. Fargo constructed a dike on Second Street in June 2000, after 6 to 8 inches of rain in 12 hours caused widespread flash flooding - including major damage at the Fargodome.

Walaker said his only concern is that another severe storm could bump the river back into major flooding.

"We need about 8 to 10 days to gain back our capacity to handle any future precipitation event. When you get this high, another thunderstorm on top of this would put us up into the category of major flood,” the mayor said.

The main purpose for the clay levee downtown is to protect the city’s storm water system, Walker said. If the river had hit 32 feet, it might not have spilled onto the road, “But it would’ve gotten into the storm sewer system,” she said.

Walker said the river should drop just as quickly as it rose, meaning the closures shouldn’t last too long, although she wouldn’t give a time frame.

“It’s going to start to fall off pretty quickly, and I would think that we would be able to start removing (the dike) fairly quickly, too,” Walker said.

It’s anticipated the dike construction will exacerbate traffic issues in downtown Fargo, Walker said at a city press conference this morning.

Fargo police said that of 5 a.m. today, streets were under water at 11 locations and some streets remained barricaded as of 8 a.m.

Police urged drivers to respect the barricades. Some drivers had gone around them and gotten stalled in 3 to 5 feet of water.

City officials were encouraging residents to avoid sightseeing along the river corridor, although downtown businesses remained completely open throughout the day, said Mike Hahn, president/CEO of the Downtown Community Partnership.

The city wanted residents to be aware that with summer construction in full swing and now dike building that there would be heavy machinery and trucks passing through downtown.

“It’s a public safety type of issue,” Hahn said.

Downtown will stay open, Hahn said, unless there’s a “drastic change” in the weather.

Officials said street flooding was particularly a problem in the area of 12th Avenue North in Fargo’s industrial park.

Fargo officials said the city is shutting stormwater outlet gates to the river and city will activate lift stations throughout the day.

Fargo residents living north of Interstate 94 and east of 25th Street were being asked to restrict their water use until noon today.

Many Fargo park programs are being canceled today and the campground in Lindenwood Park will be closed.

The Fargo Fire Department said it is aware of widespread basement flooding. City leaders urged people to monitor their sump pumps to make sure they are working.