Flood fight ‘ain’t over ‘til it’s over’


Vigilance was the key word for both Fargo and Moorhead on Sunday morning.

Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said he thinks it is possible that the river has crested, but it will still be days until that’s certain. The National Weather Service predicts slow decreases in the river’s height, with expectations that it will be below 38 feet on April 5.

Some Fargoans believe the river has already hit its mark, and have chosen to stick around — believing they’ve likely seen the most threatening waters.

Travis Lyons has been helping monitor pumps at his friend’s south Fargo home for several days. Between walks along the dike to make sure pumps are working properly, the group has enjoyed itself — grilling nightly and knocking back drinks.

Saturday night, they fashioned a living room in the kitchen with two recliners and a TV tuned into a college hockey game.

“We’re not leaving,” Lyons said, even though police stopped by Friday to urge evacuation. Enough neighbors have left the area that National Guardsman were brought in over the weekend to help the dwindling dwellers like Lyons and his friends monitor the pumps.

“Somebody’s got to do it,” Lyons said of pump-watching. “We can’t all just leave.”

U.S. Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., a graduate of the University of North Dakota and a Fighting Sioux fan, compared this time of waiting to the recent University of North Dakota hockey game, which they lost after their opponent tied the game in the last tenth of a second.

“It ain’t over ‘til it’s over,” Pomeroy said.

Moorhead held a similar sentiment as officials announced that all the dikes are at a uniform 43 feet and work is being done to construct secondary levees.

Strong winds and potential inclement weather mean the Red River Valley cannot rest yet, and evacuated residents were urged to remain where they are until the river further subsides, officials said.

City Manager Michael Redlinger said Moorhead has lost at least five homes so far, but additional dikes were built around those homes to stop the water from inundating additional properties.

Fargo suffered a major loss early Sunday morning when a permanent dike built around Oak Grove Lutheran, a private school for sixth to 12th graders, was breached.

The steel levee did not seem to be damaged, but the river, moving at a velocity of 12 to 16 miles per hour, underlined the dike and began spouting water, Oak Grove President Bruce Messelt said.

School faculty who had been patrolling the pumps and dikes called the emergency response team to help get the flooding under control. They were unable to keep up and had to evacuate. Two of the five buildings on the school campus had already flooded and two more were expected to be lost.

However, the contingency dikes built behind the school held effectively, saving the neighborhood there.

Though the loss of the buildings was disappointing, the plans set in place for occurrences such as these worked. Officials were not disappointed with the strong and quick response of the rapid response teams.

Lyons and his friends are staying in a house between a primary sandbag dike and a combination of earthen dike and manufactured HESCO containers full of sand, which are meant to be tougher and higher barriers.

If the water rises above the sandbags, the primary dike gives way or the pumps stop sending seepage back into the flooded river, that house will be immediately affected.

But everyone there expects the water to continue receding — they believe the river already crested — and Lyons said it’s just a matter of waiting for the constant pump-watching work to subside.

Since the wait could last another week, Walaker allowed all businesses except those in retail to reopen Sunday, requesting that retail remain closed until Tuesday. Roads were also reopened but residents were still urged to limit unnecessary road use.

-Karlee Weinmann is a senior staff reporter