Fargo, North Dakota, prepares for record flooding

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Volunteers move sandbags in Fargo, North Dakota.
Image: Resplendent.

Fargo, North Dakota is preparing itself for what could be its worst flood ever. Hundreds of high school and college students worked with two hundred National Guard soldiers Monday on the task of filling over a million sandbags in the effort to stave off the rising Red River. Classes at North Dakota State University were canceled in order to lend the assistance of its students and faculty.

The threat of further rainfall has increased the flood risk, with the river now predicted to crest as high as 52 feet (16 metres), over twice that of its lowest flood stage. An emergency levee south of town is also being hastily constructed. Three machines capable of filling 15,000 sandbags an hour are being used around the clock to keep up with demand.

Temporary dikes from Louisiana are being flown in. The dikes, 4 foot high interlocking containers filled with sand, were used during Hurricane Katrina. In Emmons County, several dozen homes were evacuated on Sunday, and families in the town of Beulah, North Dakota have also been forced to leave ahead of the rising waters.

The current scenario is a reminder of the record 1997 flood which inundated the Red River Valley. Fargo constructed a levee system following the disaster to help prevent future flooding. Up to 6000 homes are currently at risk, with many communities farther downriver also preparing for flooding.

The American Red Cross has sent over 20,000 prepackaged meals, along with cots and blankets. Its volunteers around the country have been put on standby, ready to travel to North Dakota if necessary.

All eyes are currently on the skies, as the fate of many communities will be determined largely by how much rain and snow falls over the next week.


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