FEMA chief to survey Red River flooding

FEMA chief to survey Red River flooding
Fargo, North Dakota (CNN) — Officials in North Dakota and Minnesota are catching their breath Monday, if only briefly, after the Red River crested over the weekend.

Despite the river peaking at 36.99 feet — 19 feet above flood level — Sunday morning, the region will have to contend with high water for a while.

“It’ll be about a week, so we’re just going to continue to monitor things and kind of wait as that water very, very slowly goes down,” said Robyn Litke, spokeswoman for Fargo, North Dakota.

“We are just continuing to maintain our dikes and just continuing the dike patrols. It is expected that we will stay well above major the major flood stage of 30 feet for about the next week or maybe a little bit longer.”

Overall, the situation in Fargo looked good, Mayor Dennis Walaker said Sunday.

“We’re standing tall,” Walaker said. “We have to stand tall for a few more days.”

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Craig Fugate, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was expected to tour Fargo on Monday to survey the area’s response to the high waters.

When the river recedes to 30 feet, Fargo can begin removing dikes, a city official said. The waters were expected to begin their retreat late Sunday at a rate two to three times slower than it rose.

The Red River flooding began last week when warmer weather and rain melted snow south of Fargo and its sister city of Moorhead, Minnesota, causing the river to swell. Upstream, snow and ice have yet to melt, pushing water back toward the two cities.

Last year, the Red River crested at nearly 41 feet — a record and about 4 feet higher than this year’s level.

Water surrounded some homes near the river in Fargo, where 700,000 sandbags guarded the city from creeping waters. At least 10 people have been rescued from floodwaters in the area since Friday, according to the U.S. Coast Guard.

Moorhead also was on alert, and the city was advising residents to monitor sandbag dikes. Between Moorhead and Fargo, more than 1 million sandbags were stacked to defend against the river’s rise.

Between Saturday night and Sunday morning, teams in Cass County, North Dakota — which includes Fargo — rushed to three locations to reinforce sandbag dikes, said Capt. Grant Larson of the North Dakota Air National Guard. He said that 1,000 sandbags were stacked around a home threatened by flooding Sunday morning.

“This house would have been lost,” Larson added.

In the southern Plains, authorities said they linked four deaths to an early spring snowstorm that blanketed the region.

Stacy Moore, 26, died Saturday when her car veered off a slush-covered road in Unionville, Missouri, said Michael Weiseman, radio operator for the Missouri Highway Patrol. Moore was ejected when her vehicle flipped, Weiseman said Sunday.

Weather-related vehicle crashes killed one in Kansas and two in Oklahoma, authorities said.

Oklahoma police investigated 244 crashes, one that resulted in the death of a 7-year-old in Logan County on Saturday, the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management reported. On Sunday, a 77-year-old woman was killed when her car struck a tree after she lost control on an icy road, the department said.

Parts of Arkansas and Oklahoma received at least 1 foot of snow.