FARGO - Residents received a double dose of bad news this afternoon, as flood fight leaders pleaded for every possible volunteer to deliver time and energy to save Fargo and Moorhead before an unprecedented Red River crest reaches the metro area.
Precipitation overnight, with a combination of rain and 5 to 8 inches of snow, and a new 41-foot crest prediction have leaders taking several steps:
- Topping off existing 42-foot dikes with another foot of sandbags. Moorhead also plans to add another foot to its dikes.
- Contingency dikes being built to serve as backup protection to core city facilities and neighborhoods
- Plans to hold neighborhood meetings to gather residents to inform them about plans
- Discussion of an evacuation plan that will be announced in detail Thursday
- Warnings of arrest and jail for those who climb on top of dikes
- A plea for people to keep vehicles out of work zone areas as parking and congestion have impeded emergency flood-fighting efforts
"It's time to get busy again," City Commissioner Tim Mahoney said.
He urged people to go to the Assembly of God church or the Fargodome immediately to start working.
"We need to put another foot on top of the dikes," he said. "Everyone needs to get involved for next 48 hours."
Mahoney said the city needs to do 500,000 sandbags each day.
"Are we confident that we are going to beat this? Yes we are," Mahoney said. "I need another 48 hours of hard work of people working together."
He added that neighbors need to check on each other and pitch in to build up the dikes.
The latest Red River crest prediction, released about noon to the public, is 41 feet Saturday in Fargo.
"We're not talking about doom or failure of the dikes," Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said. "We're really just down to a time crunch"
Previously, the National Weather Service predicted a range of 39 to 41 feet this weekend, with 40 feet the anticipated crest.
Severe overland flooding and record levels on the Wild Rice River, which feeds the Red River south of Fargo, prompted the latest prediction.
Commissioners are meeting at 5 p.m. to discuss the flood.
Fargo Police Chief Keith Ternes said people climbing onto dikes to look at the river have been an ongoing problem.
"We are done asking people to stay out of those areas," Ternes said. "We will be making arrests and people will be going to jail."
He also urged volunteers to use the mass transit system being used to shuttle sandbaggers to work areas.
Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney said emergency crews had made 11 rescues by 1:30 p.m., helping 20 people and a number of animals from the rising flood waters.
The county is delivering sandbags to Forest River and Chrisan Way for those homeowners who think they can still beat the flood. Trucks are delivering the sand today and offering up the sandbags on a first-come, first-serve basis.
The county, along with other federal agencies, started water patrols this morning.
Laney said that anyone who wants to be rescued needs to pack light, gather their family members and leave when the boats arrive.
"We've had people ask us to come back in an hour," Laney said. "I don't know if we can come back in an hour."
He warned that people should not wait until night fall, as rescue operations are life or death in the dark.
"If you know you have to get out, get out before tonight," he said.
In some cases, water is lapping within inches of dikes in rural areas.
"It's time to get out," Laney said.