Late this afternoon the National Weather Service River Forecast Center came out with the announcement that no one in Fargo wanted to hear: the expected crest has risen a foot to 42, and possibly 43 feet. The NWS included the following eerie passage in their official statement:
"The relative uncertainty in forecast models has increased significantly. Record flows upstream of Fargo have produced unprecedented conditions on the Red River. Given these factors, the river is expected to behave in ways never previously observed."
Fargo city commissioners assured the public that dikes were now steady at the 43 foot level, and plans are underway to increase dikes in south Fargo one foot overnight.
Because of massive traffic gridlock after street closures, sand and clay trucks have been greatly slowed this afternoon. Tonight, the city is asking residents to stay in their homes, leaving it up to individual neighborhoods to band together overnight in the south end to try to add the last foot to save their homes.
One neighborhood in Fargo and one in Moorhead are under mandatory evacuation, the largest hospital chain is now evacuating patients, and the city has had to make tough choices in placing secondary clay dikes, cutting off a number of neighborhoods should the water rise.
This battle is not over, and if Fargo and Moorhead can add the last foot and keep the sanitary and storm sewer systems intact they could save the majority of the city. After that, it becomes a problem of maintaining a series of sandbag and temporary dikes over the expected 3 to 5 day high water period.
Check out local photographer Dave Arntson's excellent ongoing photo documentary of the flood fight. One thing I learned working for FEMA during our 1997 flood is that photos matter. Inspired photography helps people process and better understand these tense situations, especially since there is no time to think about what is happening while it is happening.