FARGO, N.D. —Before this flood season, officials in Fargo asked homeowners to clear paths in their yards so that firm and straight walls of sandbags could be placed to protect their homes. One resident cut down his tree. Another went so far as to use a torch to melt the ice off his ground.
Last year, Fargo wasn't so prepared. Homeowners put sandbags right on top of snow instead of the bare ground, allowing water to seep underneath and, in some cases, cause dikes to collapse. Other less-sturdy barriers toppled over, and floodwaters flowed into homes.
The flood-weary city is well versed in flood preparation because it's learned from its mistakes, especially after last year's record-breaking flood. As a result, many here feel they've already won the flood fight against the Red River even though it's not expected to crest for a few more days.
"Our people our quite euphoric," Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said Thursday as he tried to mute the celebration. "It's probably premature to be too euphoric."
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The National Weather Service is forecasting the river to crest Sunday at 20 feet above the flood stage, meaning the overflowing river waters could threaten homes, parks and roads in several low-lying neighborhoods.
Last year, the city scrambled to get finished in time, forcing some residents to frantically sandbag and sump-pump the rising river water out of their yards at the same time.
It's a much calmer scene this year in Fargo. City officials declared Thursday they were done sandbagging and the clay levees were 99 percent complete. At a flood planning meeting, they even handed out awards to the top volunteer sandbaggers.
"The experience of last year made a big difference," Fargo City Administrator Pat Zavoral said. "Everyone has realized that until we get the (river) diversion, we will still have a 15-year period where we're going to need to know how to do these emergency measures. So we might as well be good at it."