FLOOD UPDATE: 'Ramp up and prepare' for flood fight, city leaders stress volunteers needed
FARGO - Flood fighting moved into full swing today as Fargo and Cass County leaders called on residents to volunteer in the race against a rising Red River.
After a dramatic change in the region's flood forecast over the past 48 hours, Fargo is delivering sand-bags to southside neighborhoods starting this morning as contractors begin building clay levees.
With the Red expected to reach 38 feet by Saturday, residents were urged to volunteer while heeding traffic warnings from police.
Motorists are urged to stay off 25th Street South to allow semi convoys loaded with sandbags.
"Again we have a short period of time," Mayor Dennis Walaker said this morning. "We need to move up our preparations."
City leaders stressed volunteers are needed, both in making sandbags and placing them.
"Ramp up and prepare is going to be the term of the day," City Commissioner Tim Mahoney said.
Fargo school officials said middle and high school students - with their parents' permission - will be let out of school to help starting Tuesday.
City Engineer Mark Bittner said the city is preparing its levees to protect against a 40-foot level.
This morning, contractors will begin building clay levees in the Rose Coulee, Timberline and Drain 27 areas - construction that is expected to significantly reduce the amount of sandbags needed to protect homes.
In addition, clay levee construction will begin on Second Street, near City Hall and the high rise, about 10 a.m. A contractor will also be working in the area near Oak Grove Lutheran School to protect against rising waters.
Motorists are urged to be careful as wet conditions, in combination with clay from trucks hauling material to different neighborhoods, will slicken roads.
Crews will be digging clay from pits near University Drive, just off from 64th Avenue South and 37th Avenue North.
The city intends to keep driving lanes open but will enforce one-way traffic into neighborhoods receiving sandbags.
Fargo has produced 740,000 sandbags during the past two weeks on the way to 1 million. Operations at Sandbag Central have been expanded from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Volunteers are asked to arrive at the Coliseum on 17th Avenue North and take a shuttle to Sandbag Central.
In addition, those who are looking for volunteer opportunities should call (701) 476-4000.
The city plans to deliver sandbags - semi convoys escorted by police - to neighborhoods for three days starting today. The first areas to receive sand-bags will be homes in Harwood Groves, Hackberry Drive, River Drive and River Vili.
"We would encourage people to avoid using 25th Steet today," Police Chief Keith Ternes said, adding motorists should also keep traffic limited on 32nd Avenue South.
He also stressed that parking will be prohibited in many areas receiving sandbags to allow heavy traffic and trucks delivering sandbags to have room to maneuver.
The North Dakota National Guard will be lend its help, providing staffing at entry points to neighborhoods receiving sandbags.
Several leaders from health facilities said they are prepared for the flood fight, but don't expect any major issues at the current river forecast.
The mayor said he didn't have plans on restricting businesses from staying open yet.
"We will reserve the right to close down businesses," Walaker said. "This is an emergency, we will do what we have to do to protect the public."