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:

4 comments:

legbamel said...

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.

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

legbamel,

Thanks for the update. (9:50 a.m.) I've been reading about it: and will use your comment in the post. Hope you don't mind.

I'm glad to hear about the houses.

"Holiday atmosphere" - that, I believe. The crest situation has been good news.

legbamel said...

I don't mind at all. Only two buildings were flooded, at the school, one with six inches of water in the basement. The lowest level of the other filled, and that one may be a major clean-up effort, but the dike is plugged (I watched a 'copter flying over town house with its cord trailing, this morning) and the pumping has begun.

City government keeps apologizing for silly things like closing streets to traffic for sandbag and dump trucks and for it taking so long to organize a helicopters and bags with tons of sand in them. Personally, I've never seen a government so responsive and communicative. Then again, the last real disaster I lived through was the Loma Prieta earthquake, and I wasn't really on-line then (twenty years ago).

Brian, aka Nanoc, aka Norski said...

legbamel,

Thanks: and for the update.

"...apologizing for silly things..." Maybe they're trying to smooth ruffled feathers. There are some very fussy people out there. And, it sounds like, a whole lot of sensible ones.

Hang in there, and keep dry.

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