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Fargo, Cass County are prepared to raise dikes

FARGO - Officials from Fargo remain optimistic in this year's flood fight, but say they're ready to raise levees if need be.

In rural subdivisions, where more than 100 homes sustained significant damage, Cass County Engineer Keith Berndt said everyone must stay realistic that a second wave of snowmelt and precipitation could bring a record crest.

"Don't panic but certainly remain vigilant," Berndt said.

The latest reading of the Red River was 33.42 feet at 8:15 this morning, down from the record 40.82 feet on March 28.

Forecasters say there's a 90 percent chance the Red could reach 40.4 feet during a second crest April 15-22. They also said there's a 75 percent chance the river could reach or top 41 feet.

Both city and county officials said they will raise sandbag levees, and earthen dikes are being topped off.

Fargo officials said they'll hold neighborhood meetings, likely starting Tuesday night, to answer residents' questions.

The city plans to put sandbags into areas that need reinforcement.

Mayor Dennis Walaker said he continues to believe the Red's level will rise to 37 or 38 feet, but the city will prepare for 44 feet.

In Cass County, Berndt said that "well over 100 homes" sustained significant damage, including more than half in Forest River and all but two houses in Heritage Hills reported heavy losses. Several homes north of Fargo also have been damaged.

In a surprise appearance, Pat Owens, the former mayor of Grand Forks who led that city through its 1997 flood fight, offered support to Walaker.

"The last weeks have reminded me of the incredible ability of our communities come together," Owens said, adding she was encouraged by students from Fargo and Grand Forks working together in the flood fight.

"We can be rivals at times. The human spirit makes us all one."

She also said this spring's battle, with it playing out in the national media, will help secure federal funding for flood control.

City Commissioner Tim Mahoney told residents to "be prepared" as the city may ask homeowners and volunteers to again turnout to build up sandbag levees.