Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Liberace was "Actually a Decent Pianist" - Too Bad He was Popular

KSJR, a Minnesota Public Radio station, almost played some Liberace a few minutes ago.

The announcer explained that we'd been listening to a pianist playing a tribute to Liberace. Then the announcer explained that Liberace had been a showman who could, given any melody, play arpeggios around it.

But, the announcer continued, Liberace was "actually a decent pianist," who had played classical music.

It's all quite true: The Liberace Foundation has a biography of Liberace (AKA Walter Valentino Liberace), which acknowledges that Liberace's father played with the John Phillip Sousa Marching Band, but that Liberace himself was once a soloist, at age 20, with the Chicago Symphony Dr. Frederick Stock, directing.

But, from there (from a 'proper' point of view), Liberace's career was downhill all the way:
  • 1940: intermission pianist at New York's Plaza Hotel's Persian Room
  • 1950: portrayed honkey tonk pianist in moving picture "South Sea Sinner"
  • 1952: began a shudder series of performances for those Iconoscope devices (the bourgeois term is television)
    • Adding insult to injury: It was popular
  • 1953: capacity crowd at Carnegie Hall watched Liberace
  • 1976: Liberace Foundation for the Performing and Creative Arts founded
  • 1980: Will the horror never end? Las Vegas named Liberace
    • Star of the Year
    • Entertainment Personality of the Year
    • LAS VEGAS!!
    And on Liberace's career went: bigger, glitzier, performances all the way - with bigger crowds to match.

    No wonder a highbrow station announcer said Liberace was "actually a decent pianist," who had played the proper sort of music at one time. I think that admission came from a knowledge that Liberace let people know that classical music wasn't the dreary, near-lethal dose of boredom that the hoity-toity set seem to prefer.

    The Lemming likes Liberace's music - and showmanship. The Lemming also likes the works of Mozart and Peter (P.D.Q. Bach) Schickele, Brahms and Spike Jones, Beethoven and Jimi Hendrix. I love 'classical' music.

    More, at the Liberace Museum.

Red River Valley of the North Flood, 2009: March 31: News Added As I find It

10:00 p.m.
"Libraries Closed, But So Far Safe as Red River Flood Crests"
The Associated Press (March 31, 2009) (5 hours ago)

"The good news so far is that the Red River has retreated slightly in the last 24 hours, and a wintry storm that hit the Fargo, ND, region has not weakened sandbag dikes and levees, as officials feared. Floodwaters this week remain over 40 feet, more than 20 feet above the flood point to levels not seen in some 100 years, and the threat of more serious flooding has left libraries in the region closed, as those nearest to the flood plain have been urged to evacuate. Officials in Moorhead, MN, which borders Fargo, ND, have urged roughly a quarter of its 35,000 residents to evacuate.

"Although Fargo officials remain wary of the flood’s potential to worsen, it appears libraries and their collections in the region are safe for now. Nevertheless, according to the North Dakota State University (NDSU) library web site 'in order to allow faculty, staff and students to attend to any flood issues they are facing, and to allow other members of the community to continue to volunteer,' the library has closed until April 6. 'This is not an evacuation,' the message stressed. 'NDSU remains in a safe area in Fargo.' The Fargo Public Library, has cancelled programming until April 3...."

This is good news. I'd been concerned about the collections at NDSU, Concordia, and MSU-M. People take priority, but it's nice to know that the books are comparatively safe. There's an awful lot of data there, the sort that's not so easy to back up.

And, kudos to The Associated Press, for (apparently) checking the facts before running with the story. I wonder if The Australian has found out, yet, if Fargo only has one university: and that it's not flooded?
9:45 p.m.
"NDSU student from Cedar City shares Red River flooding story"
The Spectrum (March 31, 2009)

"CEDAR CITY — Caitlin Dancer will never underestimate Mother Nature after witnessing the unrelenting rising waters of the Red River. The 2006 Redmen graduate will receive her bachelor’s degree in advertising and public relations in May from North Dakota State University but has acquired more than an education with the recent experience of sand-bagging to preserve the towns of Fargo and Moorhead.

" 'You can’t really think about yourself in that sort of situation when you know it really means a lot to help other people,' Dancer said, a 2006 Cedar High School graduate. 'I feel better about being a part of an experience, especially with seeing people in Fargo making the best of the situation. They never hung their heads. It was 1 a.m. and freezing in a cold warehouse yet no one complained. Everyone looked at it as the glass was half full and so many people came together.'..."

Kudos to Caitlin, and all the others who have been - and are - volunteers in the Red River Valley of the North.
"Red will crest again after snow starts melting"
(March 31, 2009) (1 hour ago‎)

"FARGO, N.D. - The Red River continued retreating from its record-setting flood level today, but not as fast as the snow was falling -- at a rate that could set a record of its own.

"Fargo and its sister city of Moorhead already have been buried with more than six inches of new snow Monday and today and could receive as much as another foot by the time the storm blows through. Taken together, that would be triple the existing record for those two dates.

"The continuing blizzard has all but strangled the region, with raging winds and blowing snow creating a whiteout and glazing roads...."

There's a winter storm warning on for my part of central Minnesota - until 7 tomorrow morning. Or maybe 7 tonight. Someone on the radio said one thing. The Wunderground repeat of what the National Weather Service issued says 'tomorrow morning' - I'm guessing the NWS knows what its forecast said, better than someone doing radio news.

Locally, it's not so bad: but then, Sauk Centre hasn't had to build dikes this Spring.

(from Star-Tribune, used w/o permission)

"Obama Says U.S. 'Must Respond' to Flood Potential in Midwest"
The Washington Post (March 31, 2009) (8 hours ago)

"President Obama used his weekly radio and Internet address today to reach out to the people of North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota whose homes and livelihoods are threatened by the rising of the Red River.

" 'Even as we face an economic crisis which demands our constant focus, forces of nature can also intervene in ways that create other crises to which we must respond - and respond urgently," the president said.

"Obama on Tuesday declared a major disaster in North Dakota, where the river was expected to crest Sunday at 42 feet. He has also declared a disaster in Minnesota, on the other side of the Red.

"For the president, the surging Red River presents an early test of a promise that he made during his campaign for the White House: to make sure the federal government treats disasters with the seriousness they deserve...."

The Lemming, and this blog, aren't political: but what the Lemming has to say isn't so much political, as practical.

Getting a kazillion dollars from the feds will help, in the short run.

I'm very glad to see the National Guard and other parts of the American military in the Red River Valley of the North, helping as they can. I haven't read about it, but my guess is that the governors of North Dakota and Minnesota, being nobody's fools, did their paperwork and asked for help: instead of complaining about how the feds weren't doing enough.

I'm grateful to everyone: Americans, and (probably) Canadians, who came to the Fargo-Moorhead area to help. (I haven't read about Canadian volunteers - but I haven't noticed that much of a cultural difference across the border from the upper Midwest.)

But, I'd just as soon that the feds leave us alone. The kind of megabucks that federal programs promise is nice for a budget.

But seriously: we're Minnesotans and Dakotans. We know how to fill sandbags, and pile them in dikes: and we're willing to do so. We don't need somebody telling us who should pile which sandbags where.

Okay, the Lemming's done ranting, and will now put the soapbox back in his tool shed.
"Major snow storm could slow down Red River flood recovery"
Rachel Becker, Omaha Top News Examiner, Examiner.com ("get inside Minneapolis") (March 30, 2009) (4 hours ago)
(I know: They must have posted something submitted yesterday)

"A major snow storm that is expected to hit the Dokotas Monday night and Tuesday morning is not expected to significantly raise water levels in the already overflowing Red River, but it could create havoc on many other levels as Fargo and the rural areas around it struggle to get back to their normal lives.
"The result is a sort of 'crosswind stop-and-start recovery.' For example, the city's biggest hospital has started admitting patients again after suspending this last week because of the high flood alerts. The overall high flood threat level was lowered to '"alert"' from '"high alert,"' as water levels continued to slowly decline.

"However, the new worry for city officials is that the heavy snow storm and its strong winds could make evacuations and emergency operations, such as monitoring the still-stressed levee system, more difficult and dangerous. The strong winds associated with the storm may worsen erosion of sand dikes and earthwork defenses...."

This is a pretty good report. That typo ("Dokotas" for "Dakotas") is in copy from the 'real' news. R. Becker may have keyed it in: But I'd say there's a 50/50 chance that she cut-and-pasted it from a 'real' news service.

I cut-and-paste my quotes, too: but when they've got goofy errors, I'll occasionally point them out. Which Becker probably can't: She's most likely looking at a career in journalism, and you don't advance your career by pointing out how slipshod your superiors' work is.

The headline of this piece, "Major snow storm could slow down Red River flood recovery," is a monumental bit of obviousness: but it did it's job. It caught my attention, grabbed, actually, and induced me to read the story. Which a headline is supposed to do.

The story itself is good reporting: accurate, concise, and addressing a very real set of concerns in Fargo, North Dakota, and the surrounding area.

Whither Rachel Becker's Career?

However, I have to wonder if Rachel Becker has what it takes to be a journalist.

Professional journalists, in a major Australian news outlet, The Australian, took a couple flooded buildings on a high school campus, and made them into a swamped university campus, tacitly giving Fargo, North Dakota, an extra university in the process.

Now that's journalism!
Flood-related posts: List of posts about this flood:

Monday, March 30, 2009

Red River Valley of the North Flood, 2009: March 30: News Added As I find It


The Australian's story was dramatic, troubling: and quite inaccurate.

"North Dakota floods to break defences"
The Australian (March 31, 2009) (that's the date they gave - International Dateline stuff)

"FARGO: US officials warned yesterday that more of North Dakota's strained levees were likely to fail under the pressure of record flood waters, as approaching snowstorms threatened more misery for worried local residents.

One floodwall protecting a university in the city of Fargo was undermined early on Sunday, local time, swamping the campus in what the mayor called a "wake-up call" to those who thought the worst was over when the river peaked....
"The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated"
That's the widely-accepted version of what Mark Twain said. He may actually have said it, at some point. He was a gifted public speaker, as well as a writer, and knew a valuable property when he saw it. The original remark, in a letter, is a bit different. ("Death" MarkTwainQuotes.com - includes a picture of the note S. Clemens wrote)

It's hard to tell, but this is probably the incident The Australian thought is was reporting:
"FARGO, N.D. — The slowly receding Red River briefly breached a dike early Sunday, sending water flowing into buildings at a school campus before it was contained in the enormous effort to save the city, officials said.

"The extent of the damage at Oak Grove Lutheran School wasn't immediately known. The surrounding neighborhood on the city's north side was not evacuated, but residents of some areas were told to plug their sewers and monitor basements.

"Mayor Dennis Walaker said in a Sunday morning briefing that these things 'will continue to happen. I guarantee it.'

"He called the breach a 'wakeup call' and shows the threat that the city faces for the next week...."

("Fargo's Oak Grove Dike Breaks - And Something Not in the News"
Red River Valley of the North Flood, 2009: March 29: News Added As I find It (March 29, 2009)
That's from yesterday's post. I did a little checking, and found out that NDSU (That's the university in Fargo, North Dakota) classes are out until April 6, 2009 (NDSU Classes And Offices Closed Until Monday, April 6 (GoBison.com (March 29, 2009)). That's "In order to allow NDSU faculty, staff and students to attend to any flood issues they are facing, and to allow other members of the NDSU community to continue to volunteer...." ("NDSU closed until Monday, April 6, 12:01 a.m. NDSU (undated announcement on NDSU website) There's more: "...This is not an evacuation. NDSU remains in a safe area in Fargo...."

Let's see:
  • A major Australian news service is reporting that flood waters have swamped the campus of a university if Fargo, North Dakota
  • The university in Fargo claims that its campus is high and unflooded
I see a couple of possible explanations:
  1. There's a vast conspiracy of silence to cover up what really happened on the NDSU campus
  2. Reporters and editors goofed
I pick option #2.
But it Must be True! It's in the News!
I think I see how this error happened. Let's look at the first paragraph of the story, as reported in the upper Midwest. And confirmed by someone who lives in the area.

"FARGO, N.D. — The slowly receding Red River briefly breached a dike early Sunday, sending water flowing into buildings at a school campus before it was contained in the enormous effort to save the city, officials said...." [emphasis mine]

Imagine that you're a reporter and/or editor, looking for something to write about a flood in some bleak, inhospitable, region on the other side of the world. You see that story.

Eureka! You have it: drama, pathos: a campus flooded! Something called "Oak Grove" got flooded. Maybe the reporter was a real pro, and looked up Fargo in a gazetteer. A campus was flooded, and universities have campuses, so you look for universities. Only one's listed: North Dakota State University.

Not even Americans would write "Oak Grove" when they meant "North Dakota State University," you think. So, logically, there must be an unlisted university. With a campus. That got flooded.

So, without further fuss and bother, you write that a "floodwall protecting a university in the city of Fargo was undermined early on Sunday, local time, swamping the campus in what the mayor called a wake-up call'..."
The Australian Got Some Things Right
The Australian should be applauded for getting some details right. Dennis Walaker is Mayor - of Fargo - and that "wakeup call" quote is the same that was reported around here.

'In the News' - 'Accurate' - Not Always the Same Thing

This is why it's such a good idea to check sources - and read the articles one writes about.

If you don't, some middle-aged guy living in the heart of darkest Minnesota may point out your mistake. And try to figure out how you could possibly get the story so scrambled.

Seriously: NDSU's Fine

Everything I've read - and my memory of Fargo-Moorhead's terrain - indicates that NDSU is fine. No area is really dry in the Red River Valley this time of year, but there's no reason to think that NDSU is flooded.

"Blizzard bears down on flooded North Dakota"
AFP (March 30, 2009) (10 hours ago)

"FARGO, North Dakota (AFP) — A massive blizzard bore down on flood-ravaged North Dakota Monday as officials struggled to shore-up levees against potential erosion from high, powerful waves and swift moving waters.

"The storm comes as the weary city of Fargo remains on high alert against further breaches to its 48 miles (77 kilometers) of protective dikes and levees as the Red River is forecast to remain near record highs for days.

"The 14 inches (36 centimeters) of snow predicted to strike the area was not expected to worsen the floods as it was not expected to melt until after the river levels fall significantly.

"But strong winds will whip up waves as high as two feet, which will batter and possibly wash over the city's defenses, the national weather service predicted...."

Two foot waves and sandbag dikes are not a comforting combination. On the other hand, dikes in the Fargo-Moorhead area were put up to handle something in the neighborhood of a 42 foot crest. The Red is down to 38.71 feet - still a serious flood - but (I assume) well below the top of the dikes.

Now, as long as those two-foot waves don't wash out some of the dikes, we'll be fine.

NOAA Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service (March 30, 2009) (1 1/4 hours ago)

At 8:15 p.m., CTD, The Red River of the north was 38.71 feet.

And falling.

The crest, at 40.82 feet, came late Friday.

(from NOAA Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, used w/o permission)

First: An Urgent Winter Weather Message

I try to avoid extensive quotes like this, but just in case you live in eastern North Dakota, the North Dakota-South Dakota border, or west central Minnesota, here's what the Weather Service has to say:

"Winter Storm Warning"
National Weather Service Watches, Warnings & Advisories (March 30, 2009) (5 3/4 hours ago)

307 PM CDT MON MAR 30 2009






There's more detail: follow the link and scroll down (I used my browser's Search function to look for 'Fargo' - no quotes.

"It Could Be Worse"

Instead of near-blizzard conditions, we could be looking at blizzard conditions.

Still, it's bad. There's going to be a lot of wind. Wind over water kicks up waves. Waves can damage dikes. Damaged dikes leak: This is not the forecast people in the Red River Valley of the North wanted to hear.
Flood-related posts: List of posts about this flood: List of posts about this flood:

Downadup, Conficker Internet Worm, or Kido: Bad News

Conficker (or Downadup, or Kido) has been in the news since at least January of this year. It's a bit of malware that's infected a huge number of computers. It's apparently going to look for instructions tomorrow, April 1. What those instructions are is anybody's guess. Whoever created this worm may not have decided yet.

I hope it's somebody's idea of a practical joke: but nobody in IT security can take a chance on assuming that.

Conficker? "Where Shall I go? What Shall I Do?"

I'm pretty sure that there are all sorts of websites with spiffy 'anti-Conficker' software. Some of their free products may not contain malware. Me? If you use an IBM clone and/or Windows, I'd check out Microsoft's "Protect yourself from the Conficker computer worm." Along with some fairly simple and easy-to-follow advice, it's got an illustrated explanation of how Conficker works.
Bottom Line: Don't Act Stupid
Microsoft's advice is about the same as what I've read for home users for over a decade:
  • Use anti-virus software
    • Keep it updated
  • Use file-sharing software (and operating system settings) prudently
I'll add a few that I've run into over the years:
  • Don't click on email attachments - unless you know they're really from the trusted person they say they are
    • No kidding - confirm before opening
  • Guys - particularly if you're a middle aged, overweight, balding guy like me:
    • That hot-to-trot total babe is not interested in you
      • Don't open her 'photo' attachment
      • Don't sign up at her website
      • Don't assume that she's human1
  • Two words:
    • Nigerian
    • Scam
  • Get-rich 'business opportunities' aren't
    • The rare exceptions aren't, IMO, worth the risk
Again, bottom line: don't act stupid. The world online is about the same as the 'real' world. There are lots of nice people around: but the bad guys are there, too.

And yes, I know: 'Mac is every so much superior.' Odds are about 87 to 100 that you use Windows, though. (I do not track individual visitors - I've got time for that sort of thing?? - but I do check in on my usage logs now and again. So far this year, about 87% of visitors to my sites and blogs use some flavor of Windows, roughly 10% use Mac in one of its incarnations, and the rest use something else.

Will PC worm turn nasty on April Fool's Day? Good Question

Conficker has been in the news for the last week. Understandably, since we're on a sort of countdown:

"Will PC worm turn nasty on April Fool's Day?"
TimesOnline (March 23, 2009)

"Conficker C is poised to do something with millions of infected PCs on April 1. But no one knows exactly what

"The Conficker C internet worm could strike at infected computers around the world on April 1, a security expert warned on Monday.

"Conficker C is a sophisticated piece of malicious computer software, or malware, that installs itself on a PC hard drive via specially written web pages. It then conceals itself on a computer.

"Graham Cluley, of the security specialist Sophos, confirmed that Conficker C is programmed 'to hunt for new instructions on April 1'. However, he added, 'This does not mean that anything is going to happen, or that the worm is actually going to do anything. Simply, it is scheduled to hunt a wider range of websites for instructions on that date.'

"One strange thing about Conficker C is that no one yet has any idea what it is programmed to do. In February, Mr Cluley told The Times: 'It's as if someone is assembling an army of computers around the world, but hasn’t yet decided where to point them.'

"A worst-case scenario for April 1 would be for all the world's millions of infected computers to receive simultaneous instructions to attack, or to flood the internet with spam e-mail. ..."

Worst-Case Scenario is Just That: Worst-Case

Two things about that last quote from TimesOnline's story:
  • Worst-case scenarios are just that:
    • The worst possible outcome
  • "Simultaneous instructions to attack" doesn't specify what's being attacked
    • There are worse things than not being able to update your blog for a day

Famous Last Words?

"Conficker PC Virus Unlikely to Attack on April Fool's" (Dave's Download) is probably right. The amount of attention Conficker's gotten may have nudged people into installing adequate anti-virus software, and keeping it updated.

One the other hand, I've learned that many fine, likable, worthy people aren't as technically competent as I am: and I'm just a former radio disk jockey, researcher, and list manager who's learned what he needed to know about computers, networks, and the Internet.

By this time, day after tomorrow, Dave LaGesse may very well be able to post a polite, nicely-worded 'I told you so.' I recommend reading the post of his I linked to, by the way: it's got good sense in it.

On the other hand, not all that long ago competent engineers were quite certain that the White Star Line's new ship was extraordinarily seaworthy. The Titanic sank, anyway.

IT People Need to Keep Up With the Times

If you're reading this, you've probably got a computer and use the Internet. "Conficker demonstrates complexity of IT security (CNET) is something I'd recommend reading. Among other things, it reminds us that flash drives can carry malware. Device authentication and port blocking isn't something most home users need to worry about - but I could be wrong about that.

I use flash drives myself - but my protections are more a matter of keeping the drives physically secure, and making sure that I keep track of what's put on, and what's stored on, the drives.

They're Only Human - - -

"Conficker flaw reveals which computers are infected"
CNET (March 30, 2009)

"Even worm creators write buggy software.

"Once it infects a computer, the Conficker worm closes the hole in Windows that it used to get onto the system so no other malware can get in. This also makes it difficult for organizations to detect which computers have the legitimate Microsoft patch and which have the fake Conficker patch.

"However, Conficker's 'patch' has a weakness that can be used to distinguish between patched computers and infected computers that look patched, according to the nonprofit Honeynet Project. [CNET link here]

"Some of the researchers have released a proof-of-concept [CNET link here] scanner that can be used to detect Conficker. The tool is being integrated into the free nMap vulnerability scanner, as well as scanning tools from companies including Qualys, nCircle, and Tenable. The tools are designed for use by network administrators at companies and not consumer users...."

Good news. Dave's Download may be right.

Previous post: In the news:
1 The woman in the 'come hither' photo may be real. There's a distinct possibility that the system you're dealing with is automated, though. It's not all that difficult to write programs to handle relatively simple conversations of the 'hi, sailor' variety.

The 'photo' itself may be digital from the get-go. At low resolutions, it's quite possible to set up a 3D simulation that looks very real.

Lemming Tracks: Red River Flood and All That

The big flood in the Red River Valley took quite a lot of my attention last week. It's a rather big deal: the worst flood since Fargo was founded, back in the 1800s.

I started a daily update post on March 26, 2009, and expect to add a post a day, until the Red is back within its banks - or nearly so. That could take a while.

And, starting today, I plan to have two 'ordinary' posts on Apathetic Lemming of the North. Ordinary for the Lemming, anyway. Also, I think I've caught up on my unofficial three-posts-a-day quota.

Now, it's time to see what's happened in the Valley. No, wait. There's something else to do first.

Flood-related posts: List of posts about this flood:

Mythbusters, a Broken Window, and Jangled Nerves

"Mythbusters 'Big Bang' Shatters Windows"
KCRA (March 25, 2009)

"YOLO COUNTY, Calif. -- A big explosion, in the name of science, scared a lot of people in a small town.

"Mythbusters went to Yolo County and ended up with a bigger bang than expected.

" 'It was a boom that was just -- I had never heard anything like that before, it was really weird,' said Sherril Stephens.

"The explosion was so big it shook the town of Esparto, knocking Stephens off her couch and breaking her front window.

" 'Course all the neighbors ran out into the street. We didn't know what was going on," said Paul Williams, who heard the explosion...."

Kudos to KCRA, for telling more of what happened:

"Williams said the school and others in town should have been notified the blast was going to happen.

"Chief Barry Burns, of Esparto Fire Department, had several firefighters on hand for the explosion. He said he made the decision not to notify anyone in town for safety sake.

" 'Mythbusters is supposed to be a really popular show. Everybody would have been out there. We would have had to cancel it because it would have been too dangerous,' Burns said...."

Sherril's window? Mythbusters replaced it.

I think the fire chief was right: it's better to let a few people fuss, afterward, than to bollix up a project by 'transparency' above and beyond the call of reason.

Not a Morning Person? Want (or Need) to Be? Here's How

"How to Be a Morning Person"

"Learning how to be a morning person won't happen overnight, but here are some tips to becoming a morning person...."

This article isn't overly technical. The first step starts with "Get an alarm clock...."

The rest of the ten steps are common-sense. And, best of all, doable by someone who isn't an obsessive-compulsive perfectionist. (I've read some self-help advice that is, to be charitable, moonbat crazy.)

This looks like a good resource: I wrote this post partly because I'll probably go looking for this how-2 list again.

Free-Form Portrait Competition at the Smithsonian: Open to (Almost) All Comers

"National Portrait Gallery Competition"
Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery

From the About the Competition page:

"What Is Today's Portrait?

"A portrait can communicate much more than a likeness. Is it a miniature love token? A window to the soul? A captured moment? A negation of personality? And what means do artists use? Pointillist painting? Plasticized sculpture? Pastel drawings? Pixilations? Images based on individual DNA? Psychedelic video?..."

They do get around to what the second Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition is about: "...The competition is open to all professional artists age 18 and over who are living and working in the United States. Both emerging and midcareer artists are invited to participate. Each artist may enter one work depicting anyone—a friend, a stranger, a relative, a self-portrait—but it must be the result of the artist's direct encounter with that person...."

Sounds interesting. I'm not going to enter, though: too many kettles on the stove, for one thing.

Atomic Science Set

"The Ultimate Science Kit"
Retro Thing (March 24, 2009)

"From Oak Ridge Associated Universities: 'This was the most elaborate Atomic Energy educational set ever produced, but it was only only available from 1951 to 1952. Its relatively high price for the time ($50.00) and its sophistication were the explanation Gilbert gave for the set's short lifespan...."

There's a photo of the set. These days, the vice president who came up with an idea like this might be back in the mail room before the hazmat team was through with his/her office. American society today is much more 'safety conscious,' or 'risk-averse,' depending on how you see things, than we were in the early fifties.

It's a wonderful look at another age, when people didn't 'know' that killer bees make nuclear reactors blow up. I'm not making that up: "The Swarm," 1978, was touted as a warning of the perils of nuclear power. In the movie, a swarm of killer bees made a reactor explode. In a matter of seconds. I saw the movie not too long after its release. The TV Tropes wiki is quite accurate.

I'm just glad that it's still possible for collectors to buy and sell things like The Ultimate Science Kit.

Maybe, someday, the powers that be in America will be willing to allow a bit less cotton batting around our lives.

So That's Why We Doodle

"A Sketchy Brain Booster: Doodling"
Wired Science (February 26, 2009)

"Good news, doodlers: What your colleagues consider a distracting, time-wasting habit may actually give you a leg up on them by helping you pay attention.

"Asked to remember names they'd heard on a recording, people who doodled while listening had better recall than those who didn't. This suggests that a slightly distracting secondary task may actually improve concentration during the performance of dull tasks that would otherwise cause a mind to wander...."

Makes sense to me: and there's some data to back up the assertions.

I've been known to doodle: not extensively, and not 'artistically' - but now that I think about it: I tended to doodle in classes where the lectures were not quite riveting.

Amazing, what we're finding out about how the brain works.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Red River Valley of the North Flood, 2009: March 29: News Added As I find It

4:25 p.m.

Let the Lawsuits Begin

"Recriminations bubble to surface as Fargo, N.D., faces massive flooding"
Winnipeg Free Press, via Canada.com (March 29, 2009) (4 hours ago)

"EMBARGO: No web, no TVuntil 7 a.m. ET. Saturday.

"Winnipeg Free Press

"FARGO, N.D. - John Clement has seen the river rise and fall for more than a half century from his tiny home in Oak Grove, one of this city's oldest neighbourhoods.

"And if Clement knows anything, it is that every spring, the Red River is going to come knocking on the back door of his home and those of his neighbours.

" 'It's going to keep happening, the flooding,' Clement said as he watched a beehive of volunteers shore up a sandbag dike behind his home.

" 'Fargo is just plain flat. Really, nobody should live here.'..."

With respect to Mr. Clement, Fargo is flat, compared to, say, San Francisco, but it's not perfectly flat. That's why some neighborhoods are at high risk, others less so. Still, he's got a point. An AP story, released about 2 hours ago, tells about flood insurance - and how many householders don't have it. The AP's take is that it's a matter of economics ($800 a year is serious money for most Americans), and the 'it can't happen here' feeling.

Back in 1997, I remember people talking about relatively new neighborhoods that had been built in flood plains. During dry periods.

There are going to be a lot of sad people in the Red River Valley of the North, what with:
  • The damage that'll be found, once the water goes north
  • Metorologists who weren't exactly right in prognosticating flood levels
  • City administrators who neither
    • Parted the waters
    • Nor raised levees beyond the last house
I'll be mildly surprised, if somebody doesn't sue somebody else. It's a sort of American tradition.
It's Different, When It's Your House
Topographic maps are available, if you know where to look. The USGS, or U.S. Geological Survey, is a good starting point. But, not everybody is that thorough, when house-hunting.

And, if you've lived in a house for years, and like the neighborhood, it's hard to think about moving out.

The point is, the Oak Grove neighborhood is a lovely part of the city: Oak Grove Park, on the river, was one of my favorite spots, when I lived in Fargo-Moorhead. It's also one of the lower parts of Fargo.
Abandon Fargo?
Maybe Oak Grove should be permanently evacuated: but let's remember that this is the worst flood on well over a century: and one of the really bad ones was in 1897.

This isn't exactly an average year for Fargo.

On the other hand, maybe Fargo-Moorhead should be abandoned. Maybe people shouldn't live there. It's not safe, after all. The place is relatively flat, and there are floods every spring. Not this bad, but there are floods.

Before abandoning Oak Grove, or Fargo, let's think about where people 'should' live: in complete safety.
Looking for a Perfectly Safe Place?
I've yet to hear of a perfectly safe place on Earth. If occasional natural events are a reason to not live in a place, San Francisco should be evacuated ASAP. Earthquakes.

New York City isn't particularly safe, either. About 13 millennia back there was a whacking great flash flood ("Catastrophic meltwater discharge down the Hudson Valley: A potential trigger for the Intra-Allerød cold period", Donnelly et al, U.S. Geological Survey, Woods Hole, Massachusetts 02543, USA (2005)), and just about everybody's heard about what Global Warming is supposed to do. Providing another glacial period doesn't come.

Earth is a fascinating place to live: but safe, it's not.
9:55 a.m. Central

Fargo's Oak Grove Dike Breaks - And Something Not in the News

Fargo Closely Monitors Sandbag Levees After Dike Breach Is Repaired"
FOXNews (March 29, 2009) (3 hours ago)

"FARGO, N.D. — The slowly receding Red River briefly breached a dike early Sunday, sending water flowing into buildings at a school campus before it was contained in the enormous effort to save the city, officials said.

"The extent of the damage at Oak Grove Lutheran School wasn't immediately known. The surrounding neighborhood on the city's north side was not evacuated, but residents of some areas were told to plug their sewers and monitor basements.

"Mayor Dennis Walaker said in a Sunday morning briefing that these things 'will continue to happen. I guarantee it.'

"He called the breach a 'wakeup call' and shows the threat that the city faces for the next week...."

It still looks like the Red has crested, but the story repeats what meteorologists have been saying: river level may go up - or down - by a foot. Snow melt, and what'll come down isn't perfectly predictable.

"Flood Wall Fails at Oak Grove"
WDAY (March 29, 2009) (1 hour ago)

"Police advising residents in the Oak Grove neighborhood to plug sewer drains and monitor their basements.

"The City of Fargo says one of Oak Grove School's permanent flood wall panels buckled at approximately 1:30 a.m. Sunday morning, causing water to enter the campus.

"City crews and the National Guard were immediately dispatched to the scene and are currently trying to repair the compromise in the floodwall...."

Sounds like water got into Oak Grove's Benson Hall and the Scheel's Performing Arts Center. Too bad.

Oak Grove Park, in that area, is one of my favorite places in Fargo-Moorhead: it's tucked away, behind a neighborhood on the near north side.
Not in the News: "Holiday Atmosphere"
legbamel left this comment, earlier today:

"There was quite a breach last night at Oak Grove, but it's been contained. The school itself is in trouble, but the surrounding neighborhood is safe. Sandbag-making operations started again at 8 this morning, because strengthening work has used up much of the 300,000-bag reserve. They closed the mall for the day, though, which should free up some volunteers. :P People are still so relieved that they don't have to keep raising dikes that there's almost a holiday atmosphere around town, despite the tough week still facing us." (March 29, 2009, 9:00 a.m.)

legbamel lives in the Fargo-Moorhead area - and has been quite interested in the flood - for obvious reasons.
1:10 a.m. Central
"Red River Crests Easing Flood Threat "
Sky News (March 29, 2009) (1 hour ago)

"Fears of catastrophic floods in America's Midwest have eased after the Red River crested at a lower level than expected...."

Well, that's what we hope, anyway. The meteorologists keep saying that they really can't be certain.

There are quite a few very good photos in this article.
12:50 a.m. Central
"Utahns help in flood-ravaged Minnesota, North Dakota"
The Salt Lake Tribune (March 28, 2009) (1 hour ago)

"As Billy Gully watched the Red River rise precariously around homes in the border communities of Fargo, N.D. and Moorhead, Minn., the retired Sandy resident did what he has done after hurricanes and floods elsewhere in the U.S.

"He hopped a plane and headed into the heart of the disaster...."

Thank you, Mr. Gully, for helping the people in my hometown. And thanks, everybody who didn't get into the news.

Times like these, I'm reminded that there are a lot of good people out there.
12:40 a.m. Central
"2 deaths reported in North Dakota flooding"
KARE (March 28, 2009) (3 hours ago)

"FARGO, N.D. (AP) -- Two deaths are being reported related to flooding along the Red River in North Dakota.

"The state's Department of Health says two cardiac-related deaths have been reported due to flood prevention exertion...."

That's a new one to me - "flood prevention exertion" - but it's a phrase that makes sense to me. People have been working very hard. I haven't been able to find out who the people were, or where the deaths happened: and "along the Red River in North Dakota" doesn't narrow it down as much as you might think.

You could drop Massachusetts in North Dakota, and it could take a while to find it. It's an expansive state.
Flood-related posts: List of posts about this flood:

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Rapid City Flood, 1972, and Cloud Seeding: 'Oops'

"Rapid City flood"
Jay Trobec

"Rapid Creek normally flows peacefully through Rapid City, fueled mostly by the runoff of rain and snow from the surrounding hill. But the creek became a killer on the night of June 9, 1972. The forecast called for 'variable cloudiness with a chance of scattered showers and thunderstorms,' and the Institute of Atmospheric Sciences was conducting routine seeding experiments on some small clouds west of Rapid City. Previously, they had mostly used silver iodide as the freezing nuclei in the clouds, but this day they sprinkled three to four hundred pounds of finely ground table salt from the plane. The final seeding flight concluded about five o’clock...."

About foot - 10 to 15 inches - fell on the Black Hills of South Dakota in about 6 hours. The Canyon Lake dam broke, 375,000 gallons of water flushed down natural waterways, and somewhere around 250 people were killed. The exact number given seems to depend on what resource you read.

One reason for the high death toll was that people had built houses in Rapid Creek. The neighborhoods were quite scenic - and Rapid Creek ran down a channel that storm waters had cut in earlier times.

The government agency that was running the experiment said it wasn't their fault. They could be right. Some of the survivors sued, but that didn't go anywhere.

It's possible that the storm would have dumped that rain, no matter what the researchers did. But at the time, people didn't want to think that.

Interest in - and support for - weather modification dropped.

A little more:
"Cloud-Seeding Experiment / Lawsuit"
Vanderbilt University

An abstract of a June 9, 1975, CBS News story.

Space Smells Funny: Near Earth, Anyway

"Space Smells Funny, Astronauts Say"
Space.com (March 27, 2009)

"The smell of space will linger for the seven astronauts aboard the space shuttle Discovery long after they return to Earth on Saturday.

" 'One thing I've heard people say before, but it wasn't so obvious, was the smell right when you open up that hatch,' Discovery pilot Dominic 'Tony' Antonelli said after a March 21 spacewalk. 'Space definitely has a smell that's different than anything else.'

"The odor, Antonelli said, could be smelled once spacewalkers locked the station airlock's outer hatch and reopened the inner door...."

One possibility is that ISS crews are on duty up there a little too long, and are imagining things. Next thing you know, they'll be seeing pink elephants dancing on the solar panels.

I don't think so.

" 'Former NASA astronaut Thomas Jones, a veteran of three spacewalks before retiring from spaceflying in 2001, thinks the odor could stem from atomic oxygen that clings to spacesuit fabric.

" 'When you repressurize the airlock and get out of your suit, there is a distinct odor of ozone, a faint acrid smell,' Jones told SPACE.com, adding that the smell is also similar to burnt gunpowder or the ozone smell of electrical equipment. 'It's not noticeable inside the suit. The suit smells like plastic inside.' "

I wouldn't have imagined space - even in near-Earth orbit - to have an odor, but I think Jones has a point. The smell and its origin could be studied - which I think is a little more likely these days.

At least, I hope that scientists have gotten past the 'good old days' of defaming people who observed phenomena that didn't fit what the researchers' published papers said was so.

Vaguely related posts:

Meanwhile, in Alaska, Mount Redoubt is Still Erupting

"Alaska volcano erupts 4 times on Friday"
CNN (March 28, 2009)

"(CNN) -- Mount Redoubt volcano in southern Alaska erupted four times on Friday, shooting ash as high as 51,000 feet, scientists said.

"The latest eruption took place at 8:30 p.m. (12:30 a.m. Saturday ET), according to the National Weather Service. That eruption followed three other ones earlier Friday.

"The eruptions are the latest in a series that began Sunday.

"The Alaska Volcano Observatory said the alert level remains at its highest possible designation -- red -- indicating that an eruption is under way or imminent and that the eruption will produce a 'significant emission of volcanic ash into the atmosphere.'..."

Alaska Airlines wasn't flying into or out of Anchorage on Thursday, but had a few flights yesterday.

I hadn't been paying that much attention to Mount Redoubt this week, what with the flood down in the Red River Valley of the North. I suppose it may have something to do with my having grown up in Fargo-Moorhead, and living about 125 miles away. Alaska: that's a bit farther off.

Related posts:

Red River Valley of the North Flood, 2009: March 28: News Added As I find It

9:00 p.m. Central

Stress, Forecasts, Limits of NOAA's Authority, and Looking Beyond Fargo

"Receding ND river puts pressure on forecasters"
The Associated Press (March 28, 2009) (2 hours ago)

"FARGO, N.D. (AP) — An updated National Weather Service statement that said the Red River apparently crested lower than expected and a day early was good news for leaders of flood-braced Fargo. But it was exasperating, too.

"Over the course of a week, they and the city's 92,000 residents have endured an emotional roller coaster of river forecasts that ultimately predicted a recording-breaking crest up to 43 feet. Then the weather service announced that the Red crested at 40.82 feet midnight Saturday and was beginning to recede...."

So far, so good: then evidence that people handle stress in different ways.

"..."I call it waterboarding, the Red River of the North style," City Administrator Pat Zavoral said Saturday at a briefing after the crest was announced.

"Gauging the crest of any river is a tough business, forecasters say. And when the river is at an all-time high, like the Red River is at Fargo, it's even harder. The weather service said as much Saturday, warning the Red could rise again and that 'the river will continue to behave in ways never before seen.'

"The forecaster delivering the warnings saw firsthand, in his hometown 12 years ago, the crucial importance of making sure a community is ready for devastating flooding...."

With respect to people with jobs that are stressful at best, who have gone through a week like the one that's wrapping up now, but " 'waterboarding, the Red River of the North style' "?! At least he didn't threaten to sue NOAA for lack of omniscience. I shouldn't joke. Someone's likely to try it.

Fargo's leadership seems to be fairly level-headed, though. No small feat in a crisis like this.

"...Mayor Dennis Walaker reacted with disbelief at the new forecast. On Saturday, he publicly apologized for being critical of the weather service, but made plain the stakes: 'Every foot means so much,' he said...."

Kudos to the reporter and editors who handled this AP story. They showed the reader that forecasters are human beings. Like Greg Gust. He had very personal experience with what floods can do. And, how important it is to be as accurate as possible.

"...'I think I'm in a role to do my darnedest to do everything you can to make sure that does not happen here,' said Gust, who wasn't part of the 1997 projections...."

"...'There's crying alert and there's crying wolf,' Gust said. 'There's a very big difference.'..."
NOAA Doesn't Actually Administer the Wind and Wave
NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, doesn't actually administer the oceans and atmosphere of Earth.
And it's Probably Just as Well
I remember, back in 1972, when it looked like we'd be controlling weather soon: not in the next few years, but in a decade or so. Then, researchers seeded a cloud, upwind of the Black Hills of South Dakota. For the next six hours, about a foot of rain fell, on the Black Hills. The body count was about 250.

Enthusiasm for weather control in general and cloud seeding in particular flagged a trifle after the Rapid City Flood.
Fargo has Flood Troubles
But, so do Fargo's suburbs, Moorhead, and quite a few other places in the Red River Valley of the North. This article, like so many, mentions Fargo's population: 92,000, in this case.

Fargo is important. It's the biggest unit in the Fargo-Moorhead Fargo's population is around 94,000 (U.S. Census Bureau). The U.S. Census figured the Fargo-Moorhead Metropolitan area had about 170,000 people in 1999 - and I understand that it's grown since then.

The point is that, as interesting and important as Fargo is, it's not the whole city, there in Red River Valley of the North. And, there are lesser towns up and down the Valley: from Oxbow to Grand Forks and East Grand Forks.

I know that, the people who live there know that: and I think it would be nice if news services would make it a little easier for people who don't live in the upper Midwest know that, too.

Don't get me wrong: Fargoans are having a rough time, right now. No question about that. But, they've got lots of company.
8:25 p.m. Central
"Flooding forces Fargo wedding party to improvise"
The Associated Press (March 28, 2009) (6 hours ago)

"FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Not even a record flood can stop love."

"Nathan and Brittany Aakre had First Assembly of God Church lined up nine months ago for their wedding Saturday, with 530 people on the invitation list.

"Then the Red River rose toward a record flood crest and the church was turned into a sandbag-making center...."

The short version of the story is that the young couple got married and went to a honeymoon east of the Red River Valley. One of the people involved said, "It's been a very hectic week," which seems a bit of an understatement.

'And the moral of this story is' - flood or no, life happens.

1:25 p.m. Central
"Part of ND under blizzard watch"
WDAY (March 28, 2009) (3 hours ago)

"BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Southwest and south central North Dakota, which have been hit by recent flooding, are under a blizzard watch for Sunday afternoon through Monday night.

"The National Weather Service says there's a chance of 'significant' snowfall along Interstate 94, including in Dickinson and Bismarck...."

They say it shouldn't affect flooding in the Red River Valley - not right away, at least. As for central North Dakota: people there are used to this sort of thing. (North Dakota and Minnesota aren't for everyone. See "Minus 40 Keeps the Riff-Raff Out.")

Still - a blizzard, right now, isn't all that convenient.
1:10 p.m. Central
(March 28, 2009) (4 1/2 hours ago)
"Richland County Officials Report Flood Rescues"
WCCO (March 28, 2009) (4 1/2 hours ago)

"WAHPETON, N.D. (AP) Crews have been using boats and helicopters to rescue families from floodwaters in Richland County.

"Wahpeton Fire Department members say they used a boat to bring four children from a farm home surrounded by water near Galchutt at the request of their parents, and brought the children to Wahpeton. The parents decided to stay at the farm.

"The Coast Guard helped airlift five adults and a child Wednesday from a flooded farm near Abercrombie. ..."

Just a reminder that there are a whole lot of people in the Red River Valley of the North who aren't living in Fargo-Moorhead - and they're experiencing the river up close and personal, too.

There's a pretty heavy military presence in the Valley these days. Can't say I'm sorry about that.

"Fargo schools cancel classes next week"
WDAY (March 28, 2009) (10 hours ago)

"Fargo, N.D. (AP) Fargo public schools have canceled classes for next week to allow students to help with the flood fight.

"Fargo students have been helping sandbag this week.

"The School District also has given permission for the city to dig up Soccer fields at Centennial elementary school so the dirt could be used to build dikes to protect southside neighborhoods."

"Information from: KFGO-AM, http://kfgo.com (Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APNP 03-28-09 0138CDT"

The word "community" isn't in this article: but the idea's in every paragraph.

1:10 p.m. Central
"Interstate 94 eastbound lanes from Jamestown to Fargo are reopened, I-29 now open"
WDAY (March 28, 2009)

"Bismarck, ND - I-94 east bound lanes will be reopened immediately. We will monitor traffic volumes and changes may be necessary if traffic flows change or if evacuations are necessary due to flooding in Fargo. The lanes were initially closed in preparation for and to facilitate potential evacuations in the Fargo-Moorhead area...."

I'd been wondering about the Interstate system in the Valley.
12:55 p.m. Central
"Fargo gets good news in new flood forecast"
The Associated Press (March 28, 2009) (25 minutes ago)

"FARGO, N.D. (AP) — The National Weather Service gave weary Fargo residents a dose of good news Saturday, saying the flood outlook for the Red River seems to be improving and may not be as dire as originally expected.

"Despite the forecast revision, North Dakota officials still intensified their efforts to fend off the floodwaters, deploying high-tech Predator drone aircraft, calling up more National Guard troops and asking residents to be on the lookout for any breaches in levees.

"Mike Hudson of the weather service said the Red River may already have crested around midnight at 40.82 feet. As of 8 a.m. it had dropped to around 40.69 feet. But the river can still fluctuate up to a foot, given that ice floes affect the flow of the river and could leading to periodic rises...."

Even with fluctuations, it's still good news. A foot up from 40 feet is lower than a foot up from 41 feet.

What isn't mentioned very often in the news is how flat the Red River Valley of the North is. This morning, someone on the Weather Channel brought that up: along with a way that people have used to explain to outsiders what it's like here, for decades.

Take a glass of water, and pour it on the top of a flat, hard-surfaced table. Watch what happens to the water. That's what a flood in the Red River Valley of the North is often like. It's not perfectly flat, of course. Many places, the land rises a foot for every thousand horizontal feet. Go five miles, and you might be five feet higher or lower than you were when you started.
12:30 p.m. Central

"We Want to Go Down Swinging If We Go Down"

NOAA Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service (March 28, 2009) (1 1/4 hours ago)

At 1:15 a.m., CTD, The Red River of the north was 40.68 feet.

And, apparently, falling.

Earlier today, it had been at 40.82 feet.

(from NOAA Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, used w/o permission)

This is, obviously, good news: a much better outlook than yesterday's. Looks like the cold weather is helping: both by making the sandbags stiff, once they're in place, and by slowing down the snow melt.

Yesterday's and Today's NOAA predictions for water level:

March 27, 2009, 8:15 p.m.
March 28, 2009, 11:15 a.m.
The NOAA page displaying these charts tells us: "NOTE: Forecasts for the Red River of the North at Fargo are issued as needed during times of high water, but are not routinely available."
Fargo-related posts: List of posts about this flood:

Friday, March 27, 2009

Red River Valley of the North Flood, 2009: March 27: News Added As I find It

10:20 p.m. Central
Another blogger pointed me to her post about the flood. She lives in East Grand Forks, Minnesota.

"Wild Weather: Red River Racing Toward My Doorstep"
Extraordinary Intelligence (March 27, 2009) (12 hours ago)

"Many of you may know that I live on the Minnesota/North Dakota border. What you may not know is that the border between the two states in my neck o' the woods is the Red River, which is about 2 blocks from my front door, and is getting closer by the hour...."

There's more text, and quite a few photos, in the post. And, despite the blog's topic, she doesn't seem to think that the flood is part of a conspiracy.

9:45 p.m. Central

"We Want to Go Down Swinging If We Go Down"

NOAA Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service (March 27, 2009) (1 1/2 hours ago)

At 8:15 CTD, The Red River of the north was at 40.78 feet.
And rising.

(from NOAA Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, used w/o permission)

"Local Volunteers Geared Up for Fargo Flood"
WBAY-TV Green Bay, Wisconsin (March 27, 2009) (4 3/4 hours ago)

"As work continues in the Fargo area to protect buildings against the flooding, local volunteers are gearing up to help in the disaster area. Some are already on-site.

"Three volunteers from the Lakeland chapter of the American Red Cross arrived in Fargo Tuesday.

" 'It's horrible, absolutely horrible. It's heart wrenching,' Red Cross volunteer Jan Traversa said. 'This whole area is going to be swamped if it happens, so just have to have everyone pray for these people. They're working so hard.'

"Traversa is one of two local volunteers who are helping to feed all of the residents who are sandbagging, trying to save their homes, their businesses, and their city...."

People are coming a long way, to help out in Fargo. I hope that some assistance gets to the smaller towns in the Valley, too.

And, it's pretty clear that people in Fargo-Moorhead aren't just waiting around. There are dikes to patch, if nothing else.

"Red River reaches record level, floods Fargo with uncertainty"
CNN (March 27, 2009) (3/4 of an hour ago)

"FARGO, North Dakota (CNN) -- Fifteen helicopters from the U.S. Northern Command along with active-duty military personnel are being sent to Fargo, North Dakota, to assist the state as it prepares for possible record flooding, a U.S. military official told CNN...."

"...The swollen Red River broke a 112-year-old flood record Friday and threatened to rise further as the city's mayor vowed to 'go down swinging.'..."

I ran into that "go down swinging" quote in an AP story, earlier today:

"Projected crest of Red River increased at Fargo"
The Associated Press (March 27, 2009) (16 3/4 hours ago)

"FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Doubts are growing over whether the swollen Red River can be held off, but even as some residents flee their homes, officials are stepping up sandbagging operations and vowing to build the dikes higher and higher to try and save the city from flooding.

" 'We do not want to give up yet. We want to go down swinging if we go down,' Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said Thursday, just hours after the disheartening news that forecasters had — yet again — increased the projected crest of the north-flowing Red River...."
7:50 p.m. Central
I'm taking a break: for a while.

The situation in Fargo-Moorhead seems to have gone from feverish preparation to watching and waiting. And patching dikes, as needed. I'll be monitoring news broadcasts, in case something happens.
7:40 p.m. Central
"US fears 30,000 could be left homeless in floods"
AFP (March 27, 2009) (2 hours ago)

"FARGO, North Dakota (AFP) — Thousands of people have been evacuated from rising waters in North Dakota, US authorities said Friday, voicing fears some 30,000 could be left homeless by the state's worst floods in over a century.

"As rising waters from the Red River began to breach levees and miles of sandbag dikes, volunteers battled freezing temperatures in a desperate bid to shore up flood barriers around Fargo, North Dakota.

"The US Army Corp of Engineers said a levee holding back flood waters had leaked, and earlier Friday authorities began evacuating around 150 homes from an area southeast of the city's water plant, the second mandatory evacuation zone established in a matter of hours.

"An estimated 3,500 people have been evacuated so far. But many fear the worst is yet to come, with river levels expected to rise to a 112-year record of 43 feet (13.1 meters) by 1:00 pm (1800 GMT) on Saturday...."

I don't know where AFP got that "43 feet" NOAA models are forecasting a 42 foot crest. Either way, though, it's not good.

"...US Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the federal government had readied itself to house and feed 30,000 people for up to a week.

"' In the worst case scenario we could be dealing with 80,000 to 100,000 people evacuated," Napolitano told reporters, adding the vast majority would likely stay with family or friends...."

I don't know if it's a regional thing, or if it's this way everywhere: but here central and northern Minnesota, and North Dakota, it's a poor person indeed who doesn't have someone he or she can bunk with, in a pinch.

"...In the nearby city of Moorhead -- which lies across the Red River in the state of Minnesota -- National Guard troops and construction firms pitched in to ferry trucks full of sandbags to shore-up defenses against the floodwaters.

"But efforts were hampered by cold weather.

"Shari Lee, a 40-year-old hospital worker from Moorhead said fresh snowfall on Friday meant helpers had to wrestle with sand bags now stiff with ice and snow...."

Still, as we say around here, "it could be worse."
7:25 p.m. Central

Webcams In Fargo, North Dakota and Grand Forks, North Dakota

Not all show flooding. Happily, quite a few parts of the Red River Valley of the North aren't under water. There are many more webcams listed. These are ones which still had a valid URL and were working this evening.
6:55 p.m. Central
NOAA Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service (March 27, 2009) (45 minutes ago)

At 6:15 PM, CDT, the Red River of the North at Fargo, North Dakota, was 40.76 feet deep. That's a new record.

Right under the latest numbers, NOAA put: "Forecast data shown here are guidance values only. Please refer to your local NWS office for the latest official public river forecasts." Good advice.

If NOAA's math is right, the crest will be around 42 feet, and happen near midnight Saturday. And stay right around that figure for about three and a half days.

After that, the Red River will be going down very, very, slowly.

It's going to be a long wait.
6:45 p.m. Central
Map of Moorhead, Minnesota, showing evacuated area as of March 27, 2009. Essentially, it's everything south of the Hjemkomst Center and west of 8th street.

If you can't see the map, over there to the right, don't worry. The City of Moorhead website has had quite a bit of traffic lately. Understandably.

Meanwhile, there's a new flood level recorded at Fargo.
6:00 p.m. Central
"City Crews will be working to thaw catch basins and culverts as soon as temperatures permit"
City of Winnipeg EmergWeb (March 27, 2009)
"Sandbags are available at three locations for pickup by property owners for protection against overland flooding...."

I sincerely hope that "temperatures permit" early enough. It would be a shame to embarrass Premier Doer. He's the chap who said he "is confident the critical flood situation in Fargo, N.D., won't be repeated in Manitoba" earlier today.
5:45 p.m.

City Websites: Fargo, Moorhead, Grand Forks, Winnipeg

This is for my benefit, as much as yours:
5:25 p.m. Central

Where are the Evacuees Evacuating to?

"Bemidji welcomes refugees from Concordia College, Moorhead State"
The Bemidji Pioneer (March 27, 2009) (1 hour ago)

"Concordia College in Moorhead has closed its campus and declared a state of emergency amid fears that the rising Red River will flood the city.

"Students from the Moorhead area have returned to their homes. President Pam Jolicoeur said Friday that only essential employees are still on campus to watch the buildings. Water and sewer services were turned off Thursday night...."
5:00 p.m. Central
"One-third of Moorhead, Minn., asked to evacuate"
The Associated Press (March 27, 2009) (2 hours ago)

"MOORHEAD, Minn. (AP) — Officials in the flood-plagued city of Moorhead have asked about one-third of the households in the city to evacuate ahead of the rising Red River.

"City spokeswoman Becky Jahnke (JAYN' kee) said Friday the evacuations are sought on the western side of the city, where it borders the river.

"Jahnke says about 2,660 households are affected...."

Concordia classes are canceled until at least April 6.

The Minnesota State University-Moorhead campus is still above water, and will probably remain so, I understand. There may be "a minor water invasion" though.

4:50 p.m. Central

It's Not Just Fargo That's Flooding

"Evacuees from southern Manitoba arriving in Winnipeg"
CBC (March 27, 2009) (2 1/2 hours ago)

"Evacuees from southern Manitoba communities have started arriving in Winnipeg, with more expected through the weekend.

"Two busloads of residents from the Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation arrived in the city late Thursday — the first group from the community to be ordered from their homes. The 182 evacuees included the pregnant women, the elderly and the sick.

"There are about 800 people who live in the community at the junction of the Roseau and Red rivers, just north of Emerson, Manitoba's border town with the United States...."

In a way, it's people living in those towns with three-figure populations that have it rough. Still, although they're not in the news all that much, they do get taken care of - on both sides of the border. All sides, if you count state and provincial borders.

I wish them all well. Prayer couldn't hurt.
4:45 p.m. Central

I Sure Hope Premier Gary Doer is Right

"Fargo crisis won't happen in Manitoba: Doer "
CBC (March 27, 2009) (2 hours ago)

"Premier Gary Doer is confident the critical flood situation in Fargo, N.D., won't be repeated in Manitoba when the crest of the Red River crosses the international border.

"The real issue isn't managing the water, but managing the ice floes that are preventing the opening of the Winnipeg floodway gates, said Doer, who spoke with the media near the banks of the floodway on Friday, joined by Treasury Board President Vic Toews, Manitoba's senior cabinet minister in Ottawa...."

He's probably right. Winnipeg, Manitoba, has put a great deal of effort - and money - into a diversion system that's supposed to keep floods out of the city. Odds are pretty good that they'll get to test it this year - big time.

And, I hope that Premier Doer is right. Still, I keep remembering the Titanic.
4:30 p.m. Central
"U-Mary To Be Taking Care of Fargo Flood Evacuees"
KFYR-TV News Stories (March 27, 2009) (2 hours ago)

"The University of Mary will be taking care of approximately 100 evacuees from the Red River area flood.

"Most of the displaced people will be elderly and nursing home residents. The Fargo residents will be airlifted into Bismarck this morning.

"The University of Mary athletic department is being used as the headquarters for the relief effort...."

If You're in the Fargo-Moorhead Area:

If you're in the Bismarck, North Dakota area:
  • Health care professional?
    Able and willing to volunteer?
    Please call (701) 355-8200
  • Anybody?
    Able and willing to volunteer for getting stuff done?
    Please call (701) 355-8302
That's University of Mary, Bismarck, North Dakota.

They've got a Fargo Center. It was closed today, and SADE classes canceled at Fargo and Grand Forks. The Fargo Center is okay: It's been a busy day in Fargo, what with the flood and all. U-Mary says they expect to re-open the center Monday morning at 8:00.

U-Mary has more to say about what they're doing: "U-Mary to be Taking Care of 200 Fargo Flood Evacuees" U-Mary (March 27, 2009).
4:25 p.m. Central
Took a break - and a nap - I'm back. Red River of the North is still rising (no surprise there). Quick look at news and reports - - -.
1:40 p.m. Central
National Weather Service Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service

Red River of the North at Fargo depth was 40.66 feet at 12:15 CDT.

Previous record depth was 40.1 feet, March 7, 1897.

The Red is still rising.

From what I've read, People in Fargo and Moorhead have built the dikes they can, and are now checking and fixing them. And, being ready to evacuate if necessary.

God be thanked, I haven't heard of any flood-related deaths in the Valley.
1:35 p.m. Central
"Red River at record height in Fargo as dike cracks"
Reuters (March 27, 2009) (2 hours ago)

"SASKATOON, Saskatchewan (Reuters) - Residents of south Fargo, North Dakota, evacuated their homes early on Friday as the Red River rose to its highest level in 112 years and a crack appeared in a sandbag dike.

"The Red River has already reached 40.63 feet, as of 11:15 a.m. CDT (1615 GMT), exceeding the previous record of 40.1 feet set in 1897 for Fargo. The river is expected to crest by Saturday at 42 feet.

" 'The river is expected to behave in ways never previously observed,' said a release from the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services.

The Red River flows north from southeast North Dakota into Canada's Lake Winnipeg, forming the border between North Dakota and Minnesota. Fargo-Moorhead (metropolitan population 343,000) is the largest city in the U.S. side of the valley....

This article is mostly a recap of what's already been reported. One reason I included it is that it's the first one I've seen that mentions the population of the Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan area: about 343,000. Other reports have given the population of the City of Fargo: which is the largest part of the metro area.

Bottom line: there's about a third of a million people in that one 'town,' dealing with a rather urgent issue.
1:30 p.m. Central
"Commentary: Fargo's faith cannot be destroyed"
CNN (March 27, 2009) (1 hour ago)
"Editor's note: CNN contributor Bob Greene is a bestselling author whose current book is "When We Get to Surf City: A Journey Through America in Pursuit of Rock and Roll, Friendship, and Dreams.

" (CNN) -- In Fargo, North Dakota, the word 'destruction' is being spoken. The reference is to the potential power of the feared floodwaters.

"But even if the outcome is as dire as the starkest of predictions -- even if the Red River overflows its banks to an extent and for a duration never before seen in Fargo -- the things that truly matter in town will not be destroyed.

"Proof of that is evident. Once in a great while, a community has the opportunity to understand anew what that word -- 'community' -- really means; once in a while, a town defines itself as a town. The week just past has been such a time for Fargo...."

Okay, so it sounds corny. I think that commentary has some truth behind it.
1:20 p.m. Central
"Big global wheat supplies to buffer U.S. flood threat"
Reuters (March 27, 2009) (1 1/4 hours ago)

"CHICAGO (Reuters) - The threat of severe flooding in the upper reaches of the United States cutting spring wheat plantings by 500,000 acres will be overwhelmed by plentiful global supplies that will keep the pressure on prices.

"The Red River Valley, a top spring wheat growing area stretching from western Minnesota to eastern North Dakota and north into Manitoba, Canada, is bracing for flooding as the Red River rose to its highest level in 112 years...."

500,000 acres: that's about 780 square miles: think of a square plot of land, just shy of 27 miles (just shy of 45 km, if you like) on a side. That's a lot of wheat that's not being planted.

Aside from business concerns, there's some good news in this: it looks like wheat production in other parts of the world is high enough to take up the slack.
10:05 a.m. Central
(No, I'm not writing all this simultaneously. That "10:05 a.m." is when I noted the story, and jotted down notes.)
"Leaking Levees Prompt Overnight Evacuations"
ABC News (March 27, 2009) (35 minutes ago)

"Fargo, N.D., Residents Brace for Historic Floods As Worst Expected to Come This Weekend.

"In Fargo, N.D., the Red River rose to 40.3 feet this morning, more than 22 feet higher than flood level, breaking a record set in 1897.

"Partial evacuations began overnight when a leak in a levy forced about 150 homes to be evacuated -- some residents got a phone call or knock on the door at 2 a.m., telling them to leave their homes immediately. That leak was later repaired.

"A mandatory evacuation of another neighborhood was announced later Friday morning, citing the "immediate threat of rising floodwater," according to an announcement posted on the city's Web site.

"Thousands of more people living along the Red River may be forced to evacuate, and it's expected to get worse over the weekend...."

Barring a miracle, this is the way it's going to be for about a week. After the weekend, though, as the Red levels off, there's a chance that the new evacuations come so close together.

I put together a chart of record Red River Valley of the North floods at Fargo, North Dakota, in another post.
10:00 a.m.
"Suburban 'tsunami' kills 52 in Jakarta"
CNN (March 27, 2009)

"JAKARTA, Indonesia (CNN) -- Heavy rains smashed through a dam in Indonesia's capital Friday, unleashing a torrent of water that plowed into hundreds of homes and killed at least 52 people in what some survivors described as a suburban 'tsunami.'

"Sleeping residents were taken by surprise by the powerful flash flood as it crashed through Jakarta's crowded Cirendeu suburb, in the early hours of the morning.

"Rescue crews suspended their search for survivors overnight Friday evening, the National Disaster Coordination Agency said. The agency put the death toll at 52 with 17 missing...."

There's trouble all over, which is nothing new. 52 people dead in Cirendeu, near Jakarta, and my guess is that the death toll will go up as time goes on.

My guess is that what made the Cirendeu flood so lethal was its being a catastrophic event: a dam breaking, in this case. People in the Red River Valley of the North have had a week or more to get ready. From the sounds of it, People in Cirendeu found out about the flood, when the water came.

At night.

Not much time to prepare, then.
9:30 a.m.
"Red River tops historic marker, undermines dike"
The Associated Press (March 27, 2009)

"FARGO, N.D. (AP) — The Red River rose to a 112-year high early Friday, breaching a dike south of downtown and forcing authorities to order the evacuations of about 150 homes.

"The river had risen to 40.32 feet early Friday — more than 22 feet above flood stage and inches more than the previous high water mark of 40.1 feet set April 7, 1897. It was expected to crest as high as 43 feet on Saturday.

"Just after 2 a.m. Friday, residents in one neighborhood were roused from sleep and ordered to evacuate after authorities found a leak in a dike. The leak left the integrity of the dike in question, police Capt. Tod Dahle said...."

Hardly surprising. This season's flood is huge: a new record high level is recorded each time they measure the Red River's depth. And, Fargo's authorities made it clear yesterday that they had plans for evacuating the city it stages - and were ready to implement those plans.

On a personal note: that's what I get for sleeping. I was born in 1951 (the year before another big flood), though, and have learned that I can't get away with all-nighters the way I could thirty years ago.

I'll be back with more, as I find it. And, as other blogs and projects allow me. This set of posts is my #1 priority now, but there are other 'low-priority/urgent' tasks, too.

One of those tasks is praying for people affected by flooding.
2:10 a.m.
I'll have to call it a day, for now.
2:00 a.m.
NOAA Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service (March 27, 2009) (1 3/4 hours ago)

At 12:15 a.m., March 27, 2009, the Red River of the North at Fargo was at 40.01 feet.

That's 0.09 inch from the record 40.1 feet, back on March 7, 1897.

And the water's still rising.
2:00 a.m.
"Mayor says Fargo faces 'uncharted territory' with flooding"
CNN (March 26, 2009) (4 1/2 hours ago)

"FARGO, North Dakota (CNN) -- North Dakota's most populous city fortified dikes and braced itself Thursday as the National Weather Service said the Red River could crest as high as 43 feet, two feet higher than earlier predicted.

"Fargo Deputy Mayor Tim Mahoney said the city didn't plan to raise the reinforcements on the city's dikes, which were lifted to 43 feet Wednesday when the weather service gave the 41-foot prediction.

" 'We are where we want to be with the dikes,' Mahoney told Fargo radio station KFGO.

" 'We are going to hold fast with the height of our dikes right now,' he said. 'We're comfortable. Now what we have to do as a group is go around and check all the dikes. Every dike has to be secure. So that's what the message is to the group. Check your dikes make sure they're solid, and we're going to back you up.'..."

I've read that some of the new dikes are leaking: which is to be expected. My hope is that the leaks aren't serious, or can be patched.

So far, so good.
1:45 a.m.

(Another) Heavy Blizzard: North Dakota's a Great Place

Provided you've got what it takes.

More, from an AFT story I cited earlier:

"...President Barack Obama issued a federal disaster declaration for 34 counties and two Native American reservations as nearly the entire state remained under a major flood warning.

"A heavy blizzard knocked out power and dumped wet snow and freezing rain Wednesday, making many roads impassable and saturating the already sodden earth...." ()

'Minus 40 Keeps the Riff-Raf Out'

I saw that on a bumper sticker, decades back, in North Dakota. I think there's something to it.

Consider it as a lifestyle choice. Imagine a person with a laid-back attitude who:
  • Wanted to exert as little effort and inconvenience as possible
  • Preferred physical comfort
    • And pleasant surroundings
  • Would rather take a nap than fix a furnace
Would that person rather live
  1. On a palm-dotted beach, somewhere on a sunny Pacific shore
  2. In Oxbow, North Dakota
Take your time.

1:15 a.m.
"Fargo Flood Fighters an Eclectic Group"
KFYR-TV News Stories (March 26, 2009)

"Fargo's flood fight has drawn quite a group of people. They include football players, soldiers, high school students and a Microsoft engineer. They've pitched in to help with sandbag duty...."

I think the core of this story is in the last paragraph:

"...Former Buffalo Bills star Phil Hansen was on sandbag duty near a south Fargo home. He says it feels good to help."
1:00 a.m.
On YouTube:
12:35 a.m.
"Massive floods swamp North Dakota"
AFP (March 26, 2009) (1 hour ago)

"FARGO, North Dakota (AFP) — Officials readied mandatory evacuation orders as rapidly rising floodwaters lapped sandbag dikes built to reinforce defenses against what is forecast to be North Dakota's worst floods in recorded history...."

I wrote about how long we've been keeping records in Fargo yesterday: which is a few minutes ago now. The Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan area sits on the bottom of Glacial Lake Agassiz: And has been there for about 2% of the time since the lake drained.

It Could be Worse

Fargo's Mayor said: " 'If nature has anything else to throw at us, it'd have to be a tornado.' " (AFP)

That's unlikely, but it's happened before. The earliest tornado (recorded) in Minnesota was on March 18, 1968. It was in Watonwan County, and nobody was hurt. ("This Day in Weather History March" (Minnesota State Climatology Office: DNR Waters) (pdf))

Granted, that's down in the southern part of the state: but 'in Minnesota, we don't have a climate: we have weather.'

View Larger Map
12:30 a.m.

It's 18 °F with light snow in Fargo right now.

That's right: light snow. With more to come.
12:15 a.m.
"Grand Forks Flood and Fire, 1997"
this blog (March 26, 2009)

There was a very serious flood in the Red River Valley of the North, 12 years ago next month. Most of downtown Grand Forks burned, East Grand Forks was hard-hit, too, as well as other towns in the Red River Valley.

I found a link to a pretty good source of information about that flood: and a link to an account of two people who died.

God willing, we'll get through this year's flood without loss of life.
Fargo-related posts: List of posts about this flood:
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