FARGO, N.D. - Longtime Fargo resident Dan Holm returned from his winter travels to an unusual spring sight behind his home on River Road: There was no water lapping at his back yard.
After dealing with three years of record flooding from the Red River, Holm and other residents in the Fargo and Moorhead, Minn., area quietly celebrated Monday after the river crested below flood stage.
This time, the 77-year-old Holm didn't have to meander around pallets of sandbags in his neighborhood, where many vacant lots have replaced houses bought out by the city and demolished.
"It has been sad to see all these houses go," Holm said. "A lot of people have suggested that I move out, but I'm not going anywhere. I like it here."
Jeff Makowski, a weather service meteorologist in Grand Forks, said the Red River was measured at 17.1 feet Monday morning and "looks to be on its way down." Flood stage is 18 feet. The river was above flood stage for a record 77 straight days last year, until the middle of June.
The river has peaked the last three years between about 37 and 41 feet, including a record crest in 2009.
Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker, the leader of the city's ongoing flood fight, marked the harmless crest with Sunday brunch and a performance of the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra. He noted that Elm Street, a low road next to the river on the city's north side, has stayed open for the first time in many years.
"I think everybody deserves a break," Walaker said. "I hope everybody enjoys it."
Roger Gress, director of Fargo parks, said the last three years of "water and muck" have been difficult on residents, many of whom took advantage over the weekend of an early opening for parks and two of the city's golf courses.
"I think it's one of the biggest boosts we've had for morale in the F-M area for many years," Gress said. "It's kind of overwhelming."
Greg McCullough, the head golf professional at Edgewood Golf Course, was only half-joking when he said the course has done as much business in the past three days as it did the first three months of last spring. It took until July 6 of last year before all 18 holes were open for play.
Asked how he was celebrating the crest, McCullough said, "We're open. And I'm working."
One building that isn't open is so-called "Sandbag Central," an arena-sized utility building that has been used for making millions of sandbags since 2009. The mega-garage is now serving its designated purpose of storing garbage trucks.
Terry Ludlum, the city's director of solid waste, said the break has allowed him to keep up on annual reports that have been late in the past three years. He now has his office, which is located in the utility building, to himself.
"It was one of those jobs that had to be done and folks stepped up and did it," Ludlum said. "But I don't miss the excitement."