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The Red River floods properties Wednesday in the area of Wild Rice, N.D., south of Fargo. The white ribbon that runs through the photo is the snow- and ice-covered river channel. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Red River flood preparation in final stages

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Much of the flood protection across the region was buttoned up Wednesday, leaving many volunteers, homeowners and city leaders to wait for the crest.

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A strong turnout of volunteers helped Fargo reach its 1 million sandbag goal and erect necessary levees in most areas on either side of the Red River.

By Wednesday afternoon, FirstLink and other volunteer stations were turning people away.

Not all of the work is done, but area officials are feeling confident about the preparations that are in place.

"We're in really great shape," said Bonnie Johnson, Cass County administrator. "We're almost done with all of the building of the clay levees. ... Sandbags are all out, and we've had a ton of volunteers."

Fargo shut down its sandbagging operations Wednesday. Other sites will decide where and how many volunteers are needed today at this morning's flood meetings, said Sara Lepp, a FirstLink spokeswoman.

The Red River is expected to crest at 37 to 39 feet on Sunday, leaving a few more days for homeowners to get ready.

Neighborhoods in north Fargo finished most of their sandbagging Wednesday. Residents along the streets of Lilac Lane, Woodcrest Drive and Peterson Parkway got busy on Wednesday.

Progress appeared rapid compared to last year.

"Saner," said Fargo's Mary Jane Dickson.

Most of the homes sit around the 39-foot flood stage range, meaning sandbag dikes only had to go up a foot or so with the exception of some isolated dips.

In Moorhead, much of the preparation was also complete. But City Manager Michael Redlinger is now encouraging people to be vigilant and watchful of the levees. The Minnesota National Guard is now in Clay County and will start patrolling dikes.

Meanwhile, homeowners south of Fargo continued their sandbagging efforts and the county finished laying most of the needed clay levees.

Now residents can turn their attention to last-minute preparations and maintenance of levees, pumps and generators leading up to the crest.

Tom Newberger is house-sitting for his friend Russ Richards in the Crisan neighborhood south of Fargo.

The sandbag dike protecting the house is dry for now, but once the water reaches the barriers, he'll call in reinforcements to help work 24-hour shifts manning the pumps.

"Right now, I feel really confident with the flood preparation that we did this year," Newberger said. "I'm very optimistic that we'll get through this."

A few breakouts along the Wild Rice and Sheyenne rivers are causing overland flooding at this point, Cass County engineer Keith Berndt said after a flight over the valley Wednesday.

"I was pleasantly surprised with how little overland flooding there is," he said. "I thought there'd be more than what there was."

The Wild Rice enters the Red south of Fargo and is expected to crest at 25 feet Friday. The Sheyenne flows into the Red north of Fargo at Harwood and is forecast to crest early Friday at 891.5 feet above sea level.

Public works crews in Casselton, N.D., are monitoring Sheyenne water levels every three to six hours, 24 hours a day. They are also breaking up ice jams when needed.

So far, not much is happening in the way of flooding in town.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers continued building clay dikes in Lisbon, N.D., where the Sheyenne River is forecast to crest near 17.5 feet and the mayor is feeling pretty comfortable.

"We can handle that pretty easily," said Lisbon Mayor Ross Cole. "We're in pretty good shape for 17 feet anyway."

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