Red River could rise to 1997 heights

BY SUSAN KIM | Wahepton, ND | April 6, 2001

"Theres no telling what impact that's going to have."

—pat Slattery

The community of Wahpeton, ND is shoring up levees and urging residents to prepare as the Red River could rise to levels rivaling those during 1997's floods that devastated the state.

Some forecasters said the Red River could rise to 19.5 feet in the area around Wahpeton and neighboring Breckenridge, MN, by late Tuesday or early

Wednesday. Flood stage there is 10 feet, and Wahpeton has been preparing for up to 20 feet. In 1997, the river crested in Wahpeton at 19.42 feet.

Though the river heights will rival those of 1997, flood potential depends on how well new levee systems work,

said Pat Slattery, spokesperson for the central regional office of the National Weather Service. "Flooding will vary

from place to place," he said.

The Army Corps of Engineers has just completed a new levee system designed to better protect Wahpeton.

Adding to the unpredictable nature of floods in the state is the fact that several agricultural levees have been

removed over the past few years. "There is no telling what impact that's going to have," said Slattery.

Weekend storms threaten to dump more rain on already- saturated ground in the Red River area.

A flash flood warning was in effect for Richland County Friday, where residents in the community of Wahpeton have been warned to prepare. Near

Wahpeton, the Red River is expected to rise above flood stage over the weekend.

Fargo has also been under flood watches this week as snowmelt occurs in addition to the precipitation.

The National Weather Service also reported that forecasters expect moderate to major flooding along the Pembina River. Some minor flooding has already

occurred in the Souris and James river basins. Flood warnings were in effect for the lower Souris and James rivers.

Staff from the City of Grand Forks Engineering Department completed an inspection of the city's levee system, and also held pre-flood meetings to gauge


Faith-based groups such as the United Methodist Committee on Relief have alerted their local representatives who will respond to flood-related needs as

they arise.

The Red River flows from south to north and, in the spring, tends to spill over its banks when water flow hits sections of the river that are still frozen. This

year, though, there is some good news regarding the potential for such ice jams. "Major portions of the river are already ice-free," said Rob Keller, public

affairs officer for North Dakota Emergency Management.

North Dakota has seen flooding during the last eight years, particularly during 1997 when devastating floods followed by fire leveled Grand Forks. Devils

Lake, which has been continually rising for several years and submerging homes and farmland, is predicted to increase its volume more than usual this year.

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