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CREST TO COME

Fargo-Moorhead readies for record flood this weekend

By Elliot Mann

emann@postbulletin.com

FARGO, N.D. — City leaders promised to "stand and defend" at a news conference this morning, even as the rapidly rising Red River forced them to evacuate neighborhoods and abandon some sandbag operations.

"If we’re going to go down, we’re going to go down swinging" said Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker.

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The river rose to a 112-year high early today, breaching a dike south of downtown and forcing authorities to order the evacuations of about 150 homes. A large part of the core of Moorhead, Minn., on the other side of the river, also was evacuated.

The river had risen to 40.32 feet early today, more than 22 feet above flood stage and inches more than the previous high water mark of 40.1 feet set April 7, 1897. It was expected to crest as high as 43 feet on Saturday.

Some response crews late Thursday night suspended emergency dike-building operations, after many had been toiling for days to protect the city.

"Everyone was hopeful, now it’s just despair," said Laura Rice of Kellogg, who is working as a Red Cross volunteer in Fargo. "It doesn’t look good now."

The order to cease operations came as First Transit General Manager Chuck Marchand scrambled to coordinate pickup routes for the volunteers still placing sandbags, many of whom didn’t want to give up the fight.

Marchand, visibly tired and weary, said he believed that many of the dikes topped out at 43 feet. He juggled several cell phones and a walkie-talkie to coordinate the effort.

"I’m tired, and I feel a little defeated," Marchand said. "I know we did everything we could do."

Through 61⁄2 days of work, volunteers have filled 3 million sandbags. About 10 percent of those bags have been set aside to fill in breaches.

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Page A2: Hope put in bags of sand

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