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Red River levels

RED RAGES UPWARD: River to reach 38 feet by Saturday in Fargo-Moorhead

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Here we go again.

On Sunday, a traditional day of rest, those who live along area rivers and the officials who work for and govern them kicked into high flood-fighting mode in response to the latest news from the National Weather Service:

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The Red River in Fargo-Moorhead, and the smaller rivers that feed it, are rising faster than predicted just a few days ago and are on pace to approach the record flood levels seen last year.

On Sunday, the weather service predicted the Red in Fargo-Moorhead would reach 38 feet early Saturday morning - essentially leaving the metro area one week to rally once again.

Just two days earlier, the weather service predicted the Red in Fargo-Moorhead would hit 28.2 feet by Friday, 10 feet less than predicted on Sunday.

In fact, the Red in Fargo has been outpacing expectations since late last week. It hit its 18-foot flood stage early on Saturday, a day before that was supposed to happen. Then, on Sunday, it was barely 2 feet shy of its 25-foot moderate flood stage, which late last week wasn't supposed to happen until mid-day Wednesday.

The trajectory of this year's Red River rise through Fargo-Moorhead is eerily similar to last year's but exactly one week earlier.

For instance, last year the Red in Fargo-Moorhead reached its

18-foot minor flood stage on March 20. Two days later, it hit almost 24 feet. By week's end, it was a hair shy of its eventual record crest of 40.82 feet, reached early the following morning.

Area officials recognized the parallels Sunday, quickly assembling information and their messages for what will assuredly be a more urgent-sounding plea to the public today.

But some weren't waiting until today.

"People need to realize it's here," Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney said Sunday. "It's here. It's here today. If you need to protect your home, the time is now."

City and county officials on both sides of the Red announced the return of daily public flood briefings starting this morning.

Fargo, Cass and North Dakota officials will meet in an open session at 8 a.m. daily and then disseminate a condensed message to the public at 9 a.m. daily.

Moorhead, Clay and Minnesota officials will hold a daily 10 a.m. public briefing. It's possible that officials from both sides of the river will also come together for a daily afternoon public briefing.

All such briefings will be carried live on Inforum.com and on WDAY AM 970 radio.

Fargo officials worked on plans Sunday to start delivering sandbags today to Fargo's most vulnerable neighborhoods, to deploy alternative flood protection equipment and to ratchet up sandbag-making operations.

The city also plans to ask the National Guard as well as area college and high school students for help in building dikes.

In Moorhead, sandbagging operations continued Sunday and city officials announced neighborhood zone meetings scheduled for tonight and Tuesday would now be handled all at once at 6 p.m. tonight at the Moorhead High School Auditorium, 2300 4th Ave. S. This applies to zones 3, 4, 5 and 8 that earlier got postcards from the city.

The city plans to address its filled-sandbag-distribution plan, clay levees and volunteer efforts today.

Overland flooding continues to cause problems in the valley, including flooded roads in many low-lying areas of Cass, Clay, Norman, Richland and Wilkin counties, among others.

Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist said Sunday he was remaining calm despite the new flood forecast.

"We've been planning for this ever since the National Weather Service said we'd be hitting 38 feet this spring," he said. "We're probably sitting OK just yet."

Bergquist said his department received notice from the residents of four or five farmsteads Sunday that they were leaving their homes to avoid being stranded by water from a swollen Buffalo River.

The homes are near Sabin, Minn., and on the northern edge of Clay County. Residents didn't require help from the county to leave.

"They just wanted to get out before it got deeper," Bergquist said, adding, "Some of these homes are definitely threatened."

The Buffalo River hit 17.49 feet near Sabin Sunday and the National Weather Service projects the river will hit 18 feet early today before leveling off. The record at that river gauge is 19.20 in 1997. It hit 19.03 March 25 last year.

North Dakota's Wild Rice River, which spills into the Red, also is showing a rapid rise. The river surpassed moderate flood stage Sunday near Abercrombie, N.D., and is expected to reach 25 feet on Friday, short of last year's record of more than 27 feet.

Temperatures in the valley today and Tuesday are expected to be on par with what we've been experiencing as of late, with highs in the mid- to upper-30s and lows around or just below freezing.

Later this week, on Wednesday and Thursday, daytime highs in the valley will reach the upper 40s. Overnight lows will drop below freezing late in the week.

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