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'Massive effort' needed to protect Fargo as Red River could crest at 40 feet

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From Forum Communications

FARGO - The Red River could crest in Fargo next Saturday at a level of around 40 feet, about two weeks earlier than expected, and city leaders want the public's help in an emergency effort to fight this spring's flood.

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"It's going to be a massive effort to protect the city to 40 feet," Mayor Dennis Walaker said.

The crest in Fargo would top the 1997 flood level, and the potential for a 40-foot crest for the Red River in Fargo is about a 50-50 chance.

The city is asking for volunteers to help fill sandbags starting at 8 a.m. Friday.

Sandbagging efforts will run 12 hours on Friday, and restart Saturday, going around the clock as the city aims to fill 1.5 million sandbags.

At a morning flood meeting, city officials said dikes will have to be built to 41 feet. Flood stage in Fargo is 18 feet, and the major flooding level is 30 feet.

Walaker estimates about 1.5 million sandbags will be needed to protect the city.

A storm expected early next week could compound flood problems and fight, Walaker said at a press conference this morning.

Cass County may also need 750,000 sandbags, Walaker said.

Since 1997, the city no longer allows walkout basements and purchased about 100 homes, he said.

Walaker said the city's flood protection profile is much better than in the past, but "there are some people who are very, very concerned."

Next week's storm is tracking similar to the storm that brought a blizzard to the region earlier this month, and could dump 2 to 3 inches of rain on the area.

"There is no reason to discount what the National Weather service is saying," Walaker said.

The mayor said he believes the interior of the city is protected from flooding caused by rain, but said it is imperative to remove as much snow as possible to outside the city.

"We would like to get rid of as much snow in the city as possible so we don't have to pump it," Walaker said.

The flood fight, through sandbagging, is "still a matter of protecting the city from overland flooding and keeping the Red River within its area," he said.

City leaders want volunteers to call the city and let them know if they are able to help.

In 1997, people from throughout the region - including Bismarck, N.D., and St. Cloud, Minn. - volunteered their efforts to sandbag.

Sandbag Volunteer Information

Sandbag University is filling bags Saturday, March 21 from 8am to 8pm at 2301 8th Ave N., Fargo.

We are looking for volunteers that can help with 3-4 hour shifts from 8am to 8pm.

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