Red River Valley Flooding: In Our Backyard

You may have seen the national media coverage of the flooding in North Dakota and Minnesota. Some of us here at live right in the middle of it. I parked my car this morning at the base of an earthen dike holding back the Red Red River in Grand Forks, ND. Here in Grand Forks we were wiped out by a similar flood and fire in 1997. We evacuated more than 50,000 people at that time and virtually every property in the area was affected.

Since 1997, hundreds of homes have been bought out and $400 million was spent on a dike and diversion protection system creating 2,200 acres of green space and more than 20 miles of trails in our little urbanized area of about 70,000.

This has created a strange feeling - feeling a little useless sitting back and watching the herculean efforts in Fargo while we assemble pieces in the invisible flood wall and listen to officials reassure the public. Many from this area have boarded buses to head down to the Fargo area and help out. Meanwhile, you won't find a drain plug or generator at a store in town.

Here's what's happened so far:

In the western part of the state, Bismarck's situation was alleviated by taking explosives to an ice dam on the Missouri River.

In western North Dakota, parts of small towns including Linton, Hazen, Zap, and Mott have had problems with overland floods.

The most concern now is the rising Red River, making up the North Dakota and Minnesota Border. Thousands of volunteers from around the area have converged on Fargo to help, but the situation is now getting serious. Sandbagging takes a lot of effort and sandbag dikes are subject to failure.

Right now the cities of Fargo and Moorhead are holding strong, but the rural surrounding areas are in trouble.

Here's a video report of the Coast Guard rescuing people from their homes in Oxbow, south of Fargo on Wednesday:

Here's a time lapse video put together by Minnesota Public Radio of the sandbagging efforts at the Fargodome. What's interesting is that this is actually a secodary sandbag filling operation, started up after the huge volunteer turnouts:

And, here's the direct link to the Fargo river guage, updated about every hour. Fargo successfully defended against a flood just under 40 feet in 1997. 41 feet would be a new record, and the region is scrambling to get the protection systems up to 43 feet.

Fargo Flood Gauge

The problem is -- it just keeps on snowing and raining and the projected crests keep rising. The Red River flows north. Our colleague Doug just headed down to Fargo to help protect his sister's house wearing his only possession he has remaining after the Grand Forks floods and fire in 1997: his belt.

We'll keep you posted.