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Residents Sandbag Homes Against Flooding Red River

April 7, 1989

MOORHEAD, Minn. (AP) _ Property owners stood in line at emergency management offices Friday in Minnesota and North Dakota to buy sandbags to protect their homes from one of the worst floods this century on the Red River.

″We just can’t keep up,″ said Jim Grondahl, Clay County emergency services director in Moorhead. ″We went through another 11,000 (bags) this morning and I’ve got more on order.″

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, meanwhile, hurried to complete temporary earthen dikes to protect public facilities in both Moorhead and neighboring Fargo, N.D.

Spring floods are common on the Red River. But it had risen to a level of 31 1/2 feet Friday - flood stage is 17 feet - and was expected to crest at 36 1/2 feet late Sunday or Monday, making it the second-worst flood this century in the two cities. The river rose to 37.3 feet during a 1969 flood.

The 533-mile river forms the boundary between Minnesota and North Dakota and flows north into Lake Winnipeg in Canada.

Runoff from the winter’s heavy snowfall - 72.3 inches all season in Fargo, third highest on record - sent the Red and two adjoining rivers over their banks earlier this week in the communities of Breckenridge and Wahpeton, N.D., forcing the evacuation of scores of residents and damaging hundreds of homes.

Minnesota Gov. Rudy Perpich and North Dakota Gov. George Sinner toured the flood-stricken area and both declared states of emergency, the first step in seeking federal relief for the communities.

Officials expected damages to mount into the millions of dollars in Breckenridge and less than $1 million in Wahpeton. The two communities are 45 miles south of Fargo-Moorhead.

Parts of Breckenridge and Wahpeton were still under water Friday, although the river was receding.

″I’ve lived here a long time and I’ve never seen it like this,″ Willard Eckes of Wahpeton said earlier this week. ″This is something that comes along only once in a lifetime.″

More than a quarter-million sandbags had been sold through Friday in Fargo- Moorhead. Radio stations carried appeals for volunteers to help with sandbagging efforts.

The Corps of Engineers hoped to complete work on six large levees in the two cities Friday. One dike was built on a street just a block from Fargo City Hall.

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