Flood update – 3/28/09

From the safety of Rothsay, I’m watching the daily flood meeting in Fargo

8:04 a.m. – A lot more emotion at the meeting this morning. “The eyes of the nation are upon you. People can still make a difference in this country with their attitude and hard work. We can win it. We will win it. And it’s because of the extraordinary people in the community. Go get ’em!” Sen. Kent Conrad said (at least I think it was Kent Conrad; it was hard for me to tell.)

8:07 a.m. – Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker apologized to Greg Gust and the National Weather Service for criticism he’s leveled over flood predictions, especially over the projections on the Wild Rice River.

Gust says for the next week, the river could be “bouncing a few inches either side of 41 feet.” That sounds like a lowering of the projection. But he says “a little ice in the wrong place,” could change things significantly.

Snow and wind are possible in future days, but it won’t affect the river. “But the wind is the factor,” he said.

8:11 a.m. – Tim Bertschi of the Army Corps of Engineers, says “folks will see less contractors working but you’ll see them working through the week.” Says most of the levees will be completed today.

“It’s not over yet,” Walaker says.

“It’s not even halftime, yet,” Bertschi responds.

8:17 a.m. – Pat Zavoral, the city administrator, says people in Fargo should call the city engineering department if they see a leak. “Unless it’s an absolute gusher,” he says. National Guard is patrolling the levees in NoDak. That’s not the case in the Moorhead area I’ve been in. The Moorhead Fire Department, and many other fire departments, are in charge. The Guard has a different mission, apparently, and is on standby in their trucks and Humvees around the neighborhood.

8:20 a.m. – Travel ban on most Fargo streets (University Drive, for example) has been lifted.

8:22 a.m. – Mark Bittner, city engineer, speaks about the ‘architecture of sandbag dikes.’ “Sandbag dikes are built to leak. Expect to have some leakage. If it’s just trickling out, just keep pumping. If it’s leaking too bad, we’ll support you with additional pumps.” In Moorhead yesterday, people were burning out sump pumps pretty quickly.

Adide – If you haven’t seen Donna Morse’s photos of the advancing Red in her back yard last week, please go here. I hadn’t had a chance to see what their backyard normally looks like until late last night. It’s unbelievable.

8:26 a.m. – Zavoral said they had to dispel a rumor yesterday that they were issuing a mandatory evacuation. Gen. Dave Sprynczynatyk of the NoDak National Guard says thee are 1,850 Guard members on the Fargo side.

On the Minnesota side, MPR’s Tim Nelson just sent along this:

The Minnesota National Guard is activating yet more soldiers to aid in the flood fighting efforts in the Red River Valley. The Guard said late last night it was sending 50 soldiers from the Duluth-based 1st Squadron, 94th Cavalry to Camp Ripley to prepare for duty in Moorhead this weekend. They join nearly 500 members of the Minnesota Guard’s Moorhead-based 2nd Combined Arms Battalion, 136th that were activated last week. The calvary unit is the fourth to report for flood duty. The St. Paul-based 133rd Airlift Wing and Duluth-based 148th Fighter Wing are on the scene with high-tech communications trailers to provide emergency phone, radio and data communications if regular systems are knocked out or shut down.

8:33 a.m. – “Significant challenges” finding places for people with health issues who need evacuation. All the nursing homes are filled. “Where’s my mother?” Mayor Walaker asks.

8:35 a.m. – No plans to disconnect any electrical grids, the utility company says. Xcel official says things are going well.

8:46 a.m. – “We do a mandatory evacuation, you better get out of that area,” City Commisisoner Tim Mahoney says.

8:47 a.m. “The focus has been on Fargo. The focus has been Moorhead. We are the focus of all the press, but we can’t forget about the other areas,” Walaker said. “Our concerns go out to those people to whom we can’t provide services. We try to treat everyone the same. Our response is to our city.”


9:27 a.m. – Heading back to Moorhead. I’ll post a quick update when I get there.