Fargo and Moorhead residents will likely be piling sandbags even higher Wednesday, now that the National Weather Service has raised its Red River flood prediction by a foot.
The prediction, which anticipates possibly heavy rainfall into the weekend and a river crest Sunday, could mean Fargo would have to deliver 350,000 extra sandbags to vulnerable sites around the city Wednesday. That would match what the city distributed on police-escorted flatbed trucks Tuesday, the first day of deliveries.
The north-flowing Red River would be the latest to crest in what has been a busy season of flood preparation and suspense across Minnesota. And it would be the first whose predicted crest was raised in the final days. Crest predictions on the Minnesota, the Mississippi and St. Croix all declined as the crests approached, due largely to cool and relatively dry weather.
Second and higher crests are now expected on some of those rivers. At St. Paul, the Mississippi is expected to crest again Sunday, half a foot higher than it did March 31. The St. Croix is expected to be running more than 1 1/2 feet higher than it did March 31 when it crests at Stillwater early next week. Adam Josephson, east metro manager for the Minnesota Department of Transportation, said that could close the Stillwater Lift Bridge.
In Moorhead, the city filled requests Tuesday for only 50,000 sandbags, out of the 1.8 million the city has stockpiled. Mayor Mark Voxland urged residents to get busy if they live in flood-prone areas.
"The next four days should be pretty darn nice for building a sandbag dike," he said.
For some, relief
Moorhead resident Rose Dunn won't have to be doing that, though, because the city built a high, permanent levee and removed numerous homes from her neighborhood near the Red over the past year.
"It's a very different neighborhood now," she said. "I really hated to see the neighbors go. We went through mourning and dread, but with the third year of flooding in a row, it's pretty much a relief what they did. Right now it feels pretty good."
The weather service has been giving the two cities a range in which the river should crest Sunday. Tuesday morning the predicted range was between 38 and 40 feet; by afternoon it was 39 to 41 feet, based primarily on increasing temperatures and snowmelt, said Greg Gust, hydrologist with the Grand Forks, N.D., office of the weather service. Fargo had scaled back its recent flood-proofing from 42 to 41 feet, but planners generally want a foot of protection above predicted flood levels. That means city officials will probably decide Wednesday to raise their walls by a foot, said Bruce Grubb, who supervises three of the city's public works operations.
If it doesn't rain, the crest will likely be 39.5 feet, Gust said. That's close to the third-highest mark on record and slightly more than a foot below the record set in 2009.
But the weather forecast is calling for a half-inch to 1 1/2 inches of rain through the weekend. Rain more than 24 hours in the future isn't usually included in crest predictions, but it has been for the Red this weekend because it is "a significant threat," Gust said.
On the Mississippi, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers closed three locks in Minneapolis and St. Paul Tuesday to recreational boat traffic due to high flows. But in the southwest metro area, Hwy. 41, a key commuter route crossing the Minnesota River at Chaska, reopened Monday.
Bill McAuliffe • 612-673-7646