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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