Wind and snow building again in flood-weary Fargo
Tuesday, March 31st 2009, 12:17 pm
By: News 9
FARGO, N.D. (AP) -- Strengthening wind blew heavy, wet snow around the city Tuesday, adding to the strain on residents' spirits and on the patchwork system of sandbag levees protecting them from the bloated Red River.
However, there were no reports of problems with leaks or with wind-driven waves battering the dikes Tuesday morning.
The blizzard that walloped North Dakota and other parts of the northern Plains on Monday into Tuesday morning brought almost six inches of snow and powerful, gusting wind that threatened to whip up waves that would pound the levees.
"They say it's not going to affect the level of the river, but it just makes everything miserable. People here are expecting anything now," Dick Schafer said Monday as he scraped ice off his driveway while heavy, wet snowflakes fell.
The wind was blowing out of the northeast at 22 to 29 mph around 9 a.m. An additional 7 to 14 inches of snow was possible.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Frank Worley said waves were only about 1 to 2 inches high.
"Wave action right now looks pretty small," Worley said. "The wind is blowing, the snow is blowing, but we're not looking at 1-foot waves or anything like that. ... The good news is (the river) has gone down, so the effect will be minimized."
Engineers had scrambled Monday to shore up the dikes to make sure they could withstand waves, with National Guard members placing sheets of plastic over the levees to stem erosion. Worley said everything appeared to be holding Tuesday.
As the heavy, wet snow fell during the night, trucks with snow plows rolled through Fargo.
"I lived in North Dakota all my life. After a while, you just get tired of it," said Ryan Such, 26, operating a pickup truck equipped with a plow. He had been out since 2 a.m. His house sits next to dikes in south Fargo.
People were advised against driving. "The conditions are treacherous. Please, please stay off the roads," said Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney.
The river had fallen to 38.16 feet Tuesday morning, more than 2 feet below its peak but still over 20 feet above flood stage. City officials have said they would breathe easier when the river falls below 36 or 37 feet. The weather service projected 37 feet by Friday morning, but warned that the river may have a second dangerous crest in mid-April.
That second crest is what the city was most worried about, said Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker.
"We would like to have this winter end as soon as possible," he said.
The dropping water level prompted officials in Fargo's cross-river neighbor -- Moorhead, Minn. -- to lift evacuations in two parts of the city, but a voluntary evacuation remained in effect for part of south Moorhead, where at least five houses were flooded.
Cold weather has been helping the situation because ice and snow that normally would be melting and feeding the river have stayed frozen. But forecasters said the latest snowfall would contribute to an increase in river levels down the road, and Tuesday morning's temperature in Fargo was around 30 degrees.
Officials in Fargo and Moorhead say they have limited the damage to a small number of homes, but they have had to rescue about 300 people by boat, and several outlying rural areas have seen significant flooding.
Authorities also warned people to stay away from the dangerous river. Late Monday, a man was arrested for driving a snowmobile on a dike.