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3/24/2009

Clock ticks, rivers rise, hope is high

Minnesota, USA
Volunteers are working 24-7 to raise dikes to block the Red River's flow, but this week's forecast calls for even more rain and snow. After a day of sandbagging to fill gaps in permanent dikes, residents and officials of Breckenridge believed they were protected 1 foot higher than the 19-foot crest predicted to pass through the city beginning at midday today. Thousands of volunteers up and down the Red River Valley toiled mightily Monday as potential record flooding threatened those along the north-flowing river. In Fargo, sandbaggers worked to fill nearly 2 million sandbags ahead of Thursday's anticipated crest. "This is coming up way faster than in 1997. We had a lot more time then." By this morning, the prospects seemed to be improving. The Red River in Breckenridge and neighboring Wapheton, N.D., was expected to crest at 19 feet, about a foot lower than initially thought. And in Fargo, the National Weather Service says the Red should crest at 40 feet early Friday. An emergency dike system to protect downtown was being raised to 42 feet, but some low-lying neighborhoods were threatened. The river was at 25 feet on Monday and rising. Already main roads -- Interstate 29 on the North Dakota side and Hwy. 75 in Minnesota -- were closed. According to the National Weather Service, as much as an inch of rain could fall before turning tonight to snow that will linger through the rest of the week. That could be a mixed blessing. Colder weather will slow the melting that is feeding the flood, but it will make it tougher for volunteers to erect the cities' flood defenses. 
Image above: Floodwaters on Monday neared a record crest where the Red River begins in Breckenridge, Minn. This sandbagging operation was on Oak Street. “We can’t keep doing this,” said Chris Vedder, whose home was raised 3 feet after the foundation caved in 1997.
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