Red River Flooding Begins Earlier Than Expected

by Ivy Chang | September 28, 2010

Residents along the Minnesota and North Dakota border continue to fill sandbags, pile them near the Red River, and build temporary flood walls anywhere near drains, low-level neighborhoods, and farmlands.

Construction of a 10-mile dike to protect 5,000 existing properties and 20,000 future homes and businesses began in Fargo at a cost of $161 million with one-third of the cost assessed to property owners. The project will be completed in 2012.

Residents, the North Dakota National Guard, firefighters, and even members of the North Dakota State University football team pitched in to help fill sandbags and placed them in neighborhoods that began to flood during the past week.

The north flowing Red River floods at varying levels every year because of the spring thaw that carries surface water across the valley into drain tiles and ditches to lower ground where it rapidly runs toward streams and rivers. Although soil is saturated in some areas, other areas have not thawed and the water stays above ground.

Frozen Ground, Rain Contribute

In Grand Forks, soil froze to 60 inches deep in some areas as snow melted into the soil and froze before the first snow. Other frozen areas in culverts and wetlands prevented the first melt from draining into the soil.

Cities along the Red River in Minnesota—Breckinridge (near the River’s source), Sabin, Dilworth, Moorhead and East Grand Forks—north to Winnipeg, Manitoba, in Canada, are preparing for a record flood, higher than the worst flood in 1997, with some residents placing sandbags around their homes.

Rain is in the forecast this week as a brewing storm from the west coast moves eastward. Weather projections say the crest will reach between 37 feet and 40 feet, a half foot higher than in 1997, by March 28. A 40-foot crest is 22 feet above flood stage in the area.