Overland flooding expected to linger for weeks
Brad Forness's house should remain dry this flood cycle, but he's going to get wet very soon, when he settles a bet over flooding that he lost to his neighbors.
Forness was positive the major overland flooding in Cass County would not cross County Road 17. His neighbors and friends felt differently and bet Forness flooding would breach the road, which it did at the intersection of County Road 20.
"I said I'd go skinny dipping [in the floodwater] if it got over County Road 17," Forness said. "Guess I'm going in."
The veteran flood fighter, who now lives with his family in the same house his father moved to the property northwest of West Fargo in 1968, has watched water creep up to his home, barns and shops many times over the years.
"This is nothing we're not used to," Forness said.
The homestead is near the Maple River, a tributary of the Sheyenne River, which drains into the Red River north of Harwood. The Rush River does the same.
The Sheyenne River at Harwood is cresting around 91.54 feet, a level expected to continue for a few days. The Sheyenne flows into the Red near Harwood and the tributary typically starts to recede once the Red drops below 33 feet, officials said, Monday, April 8.
The Red River is expected to drop to 30 feet in a week, but the widespread overland flooding across Cass County, especially near Harwood could last many more weeks, something Forness sees as his main concern.
"It's probably going to take all summer to try and clean up," he said. "My guess is it will be a three-week ordeal before [water] even gets out of the yard."
When spring finally arrived, Forness and his family watched water creep over parts of the driveway, inching closer to the house and buildings. The Fornesses were ready for major flooding. Over the years, they have taken measures to protect the structures, such as building the house up 2 feet after the 2009 flood; building a permanent ring dike around shops and raising his fathers' shop building after the 1997 flood.
The slow 2019 melt had water moving in slowly, but then the weekend brought quickly rising water and a turn of the overland flooding's flow.
"It came up fast," Forness said. "You think you have one more day and then it's here."
Overland flooding was widespread in rural Cass County over the weekend, triggering the need for emergency sandbag deliveries.
"They've been busy," said Mary Scherling, chairwoman of the Cass County Commission, referring to county employees who helped with the overnight sandbag deliveries. "They've been up in the middle of the night. Some sleepless nights and we're not though it yet."
National Guard troops conducted 13 missions Sunday, including emergency sandbag deliveries, but the county still has sandbags in reserve if needed. Rural road closures continue to be required, with more expected as the crest flows north, Jason Benson, Cass County engineer said.
The change in direction caused the flowing floodwaters to sweep in dense corn stalks from fields south of the Forness farm, which will likely remain long after the flood waters recede.
Flood waters covered the riding arena, Monday, April 8, where it is now at least 6 feet deep in that area and likely to get deeper in the next few days.
On Sunday, April 7, his daughter placed a yard stick in the middle of their yard to measure the incoming water, but the stick could not be seen by Monday morning.
Water has started to seep into the barn and chicken coop, where his daughter raises about 25 chickens. The chickens have remained in the small barn, and the family is vigilantly wading through water each day to care for them. Last week, the family moved five of their seven horses out of the barn and into temporary pens on dry land near the house. While some water soaked into the barn on Sunday, Forness said the remaining two horses and one goat can stay in their home for now, although he is ready to take all the horses out of the yard if necessary.
"We've had a lot of offers from great people who would take them if necessary," Forness said.
Forness shuttled his wife, Sara, and daughter to the main road by four-wheeler Monday morning so that the two could go to work and school. He remained at home to watch the water.
"It's hard to get other things done when you have all of this going on though," he said.
Sandbags are being provided by Cass County for rural residents who may need them.
Officials stressed that residents who believe they may need sandbags or other assistance should make a call for help during daytime hours if possible, as it will make providing assistance all the more possible.
The county's flood hotline number is 701-241-8000.
A midweek storm will sweep through South Dakota and southern Minnesota, but should bypass all but perhaps the extreme southern Red River Valley, said Greg Gust, a weather service meteorologist.