As the Red River rises, many city folks along its banks are breathing a sigh of relief because a “perfect spring melt” should keep flood damage in check.

“It looks beautiful,” said Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney. “Mother Nature hasn’t given us any more snow or rain, so we lucked out. We’re going to come through OK.”

The Red River is expected to crest at 32 to 33 feet late this week in Fargo. That means two of the six bridges over the river into Minnesota had to be closed. But the city’s permanent flood control should handle the high waters without requiring sandbagging, Mahoney said.

“We’re really excited about that because with corona­virus, it’s hard to get 10 people together,” he added.

But as a precaution, the city filled 232,000 sandbags before restrictive social distancing measures went into place to stem the spread of the COVID-19 illness. About 26,000 sandbags likely will be needed in low areas outside of town, Mahoney said.

North of Fargo, the river’s rise is expected to cause moderate to major flooding, said Greg Gust, hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Grand Forks. Towns with flood protections likely will fare well, but rural areas may contend with flooding, he said.

In Halstad, Minn., about 35 miles north of Fargo, the town’s levee should be enough to hold the Red River back, said Mayor Lori DeLong.

River towns had been on high alert for a bad flood season because the ground was already saturated from last year’s rain. But the slow spring melt has “things looking better than I expected earlier,” DeLong said.

“We’ll be just fine,” she said. “But we’ll be ready for anything that happens.”

Mary Lynn Smith


Spring burning restrictions begin

The state Department of Natural Resources instituted burning restrictions in several counties last week, citing warm spring weather and dry conditions.

Permits will not be issued to burn brush or yard waste in restricted areas.

Burning debris is the top cause of wildfires, according to DNR fire prevention supervisor Casey McCoy. Spring burning restrictions in the past have reduced wildfires by almost a third, McCoy said.

The DNR urges people to compost, chip or take brush to collection sites instead of starting fires, and warns that people who burn can be held responsible if their fires get out of control.

Check for updates on the changing list of counties under burning restrictions.

Pam Louwagie