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This article was published 10/4/2011 (3114 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
FARGO, N.D. — North Dakota's largest city has escaped the worst of the flood of 2011, but unprecedented overland flooding northwest of Fargo has submerged roads, isolated homes and forced two rescues by airboat on Sunday.
The Red River peaked at Fargo on Saturday evening at 38.75 feet, well within the range of flood defences in a battle-hardened city that planned to deal with a 42-foot river crest this spring.
The Red is now receding slowly at Fargo, but not quickly enough to allow overland flooding to subside to the immediate north, where overland flooding stretched 15 kilometres across Cass County on Sunday.
The submerged areas include the northern fringes of West Fargo and the towns of Harwood and Argusville, all the. Cass County administrator Bonnie Johnson said county sheriffs conducted two airboat rescues in the Argusville area — one of a boy stranded on a tractor stuck in the mud, and another of a family of five from an isolated home where a dike had failed, Cass Country administrator.
But most residents in flooded areas remain safe inside their dikes. Some are using rowboats to reach their homes, while others are wading across flooded areas in chest waders or using rowboats.
In Sunrise Acres, a subdivision on the fringes of West Fargo, residents in hip waders used offroad vehicles to transport food and water down Ramona Avenue to bolster two lines of sandbag dikes at the oldest home in the subdivision, which has endured three floods in 14 years.
"There have been lots of scares, but 1997 and 2009 were the ones that actually hit," said Raymond Floan, whose home is sandwiched between the flooding Sheyenne River and County Road 17, which acts as an unwitting dike. To the east of the road, a farmer's field sits relatively dry.
"We've been after the county for years to deal with it," said Floan. But simply allowing the water to flow east is no solution, his neighbours noted, given the scale of the overland flooding.
County officials are concerned the overland flooding will get worse, as the Sheyenne River has yet to crest. Just like in the Assiniboine River basin in Manitoba, snow has to fully melt in western regions of the Sheyenne basin.
Even worse, heavy rains on Sunday are expected to keep the Red River from receding significantly at the mouth of the Sheyenne, just north of Fargo.
"The Red is projected to be above 36 feet all week," said Cass County administrator Johnson. "Only when it gets down to the 30-foot level do the other rivers have a chance to drain." Johnson said about 100 kilometres of roads in Cass County were closed due to flooding, including about 15 kilometres of submerged pavement.
Flooding on Interstate 29 led the North Dakota State Highway Patrol to close a section of the road near Harwood and reroute northbound and southbound traffic through North Dakota Highways 200 and 18 and Interstate 94.
Winnipeg's Dale Burgos, wife, and two teenagers had a frightening trip back from Minnesota Sunday night — at one point, his car seemed to float as he drove with white knuckles for three kilometres over a water-covered I-29 north of Fargo.
"It was a real slow-go — once we left Fargo, it took us two and one-half hours to go 24 kilometres," said Burgos. But then near Harwood, N.D., he saw the cause of the delay as the highway disappeared underwater: "It got deeper — I felt my car float a bit at one point. I couldn't see the road, the best thing was to stay close to the person in front of me."
The Red River at Fargo, meanwhile, receded to 37.5 feet by Sunday evening. Senior city engineer April Walker said Fargo's main priority was maintaining the integrity of temporary dikes as the river remains high.
"While we still have some concerns, we're feeling pretty comfortable right now," she said.
If Saturday's crest of 38.75 feet remains the peak of this year's flood in Fargo, 2011 will rank as the fourth-highest flood on record, after 2009, 1997 and 1897.
Relative crests at Fargo, however, do not necessarily translate into similar crests downstream in Manitoba, as the Red River's capacity to hold water increases dramatically as it flows north.
For example, the channel capacity of the Red at Fargo is 7,700 cubic feet per second, while it's roughly 80,000 cubic feet per second below the Red River Floodway.
— with file from Nick Martin
Red River crests — and estimated crest ranges *Estimated range
Fargo, N.D.: April 9
Grand Forks, N.D.: April 13-15*
Emerson: April 22-24*
Winnipeg: April 28 to May 2*