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CASS COUNTY: Overland flooding cuts off rural residents, submerges roads

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Cass County has five miles of earthen dikes and 500,000 sandbags in place as residents brace for flooding, mostly overland from the Wild Rice and Sheyenne rivers.

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County Administrator Bonnie Johnson said this morning that overland flooding is expected to continue "until the mighty Red lowers" and the Sheyenne can empty north of Fargo.

The latest reading of the Sheyenne River at Harwood, N.D., was 891.26 feet above sea level. It is forecast to reach 891.5 feet later today - inches below last year's level and about 6 inches below the 1997 record, according to the National Weather Service.

Officials stressed safety by residents, particularly waterlogged roads. Numerous roads were inundated overnight and more are expected to go under water in the coming days.

A few power outages have been reported and people noticing downed lines are asked to call (701) 356-4470 to report them.

Engineer Keith Berndt said county leaders "went into this flood fight with incredible support," thanking the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and North Dakota National Guard.

North of West Fargo, particularly near Harwood and areas near the Red River, residents will begin to lose access to roads, Berndt said.

Many farms are protected by ring levees but residents will be marooned until floodwaters recede.

Sheriff Paul Laney said air boats are staged and ready to go. In addition to crews formed by county, state and federal agents, the U.S. Custom and Border Patrol plans reconnaissance missions to aid in reaching cut-off residents.

The sheriff also said some residents questioned whether arrests could be made for boating on the Red during flooding.

Citing federal statute, Laney said the Red is a federal waterway and violations could results in fines up to $32,000.

"It's not about trying to make people's life tough," Laney said. "We will certainly deal with it if you're out there."

Also, rural residents whose wells are submerged by floodwaters are cautioned against using well water because of contamination. Anyone with questions about a submerged well should call (701) 476-4016.

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