Remember the Red River Valley

The Boston Globe has posted a moving photo display with 30 photographs vividly depicting the nature of the struggle (mostly) against the Red River flooding that is afflicting Fargo, North Dakota, Moorhead, Minnesota and other communities along the river. (A few photos touch on the simultaneous struggle against the flooding of the Missouri River in Bismarck.)

One of Fargo’s dikes failed last night. According to the linked AP story, crews managed to largely contain the flooding to the campus of Oak Grove Lutheran. The possible impact of weather conditions predicted for Monday and Tuesday makes it unclear whether the worst is over, but the threat of damage to life and property appears to continue. Volunteers are needed as sandbag operations continue at the Fargodome today.

Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker has differed with the National Weather Service predictions regarding the cresting of the river. As of this morning, the river is retreating. This morning its level had dropped to just over 40 feet.

Mayor Walaker has an engineering background that appears to have fitted him well for the leadersip he has displayed during this emergency. He previously worked for 20 years as the assistant director of public works and operations supervising Fargo’s flood-fighting. Richard Meryhew profiles Mayor Walaker in today’s Star Tribune.

When I spoke with my Fargo friend Ron McLean yesterday morning, he pointed out the mayor’s disagreement with the NWS regarding the cresting of the river. According to Ron, based on an aerial view and his own expertise, Mayor Walaker asserted that the river had crested and was receding. The NWS had predicted that the worst was yet to come.

The disagreement between the mayor and the NWS is touched on in yesterday’s long AP story on the river’s cresting. In touching on the issue, the story cites the NWS’s aptly named Greg Gust:

The variation in flood forecasts was a rollercoaster throughout the week for Fargo, with the projection edging upward twice before being lowered Saturday. Walaker opened a briefing earlier in the day by apologizing for criticizing the weather service.

Greg Gust, a warning coordination meteorologist for the weather service, said the predictions are complex. They come from round-the-clock work by hundreds of scientists, engineers and other experts. Some of those people brave the river for measurements of volume, flow and temperatures. They also use computer models for mathematical and statistical analyses.

But even with improved forecasting methods, the river’s record levels and the volatile temperatures don’t allow anyone to be certain, and the National Weather Service continued to hedge its prediction Saturday.

“The relative uncertainty in forecast models remain and the river will continue to behave in ways never before seen,” the weather service said.

Somehow President Obama derives a moral regarding the purported threat of anthropogenic global warming from this story. The relative uncertainty in forecast models somehow receded from that issue long ago.

Via NRO’s Corner and reader Richard Thiel.

UPDATE: Reader Dale Wetzel writes from Bismarck that he prefers the terrific AP profile of Mayor Walaker by Dave Kolpack. Dale also points to a brief item about a CNN employee being arrested for standing on a dike despite warnings two days before from Fargo city officials that people who did so would be arrested. Dale explains: “Standing on a dike during a flood does not help its structural integrity.”

JOHN adds: Civic leaders in the region have shown a refreshing spirit, as when Mayor Walaker, the crest approaching, vowed that if the City of Fargo went down it would “go down swinging.”

This is just one of the extraordinary photos at the Boston Globe’s site:


The Minneapolis Star Tribune has had good coverage of the flood, too; this photo gives a sense of the peril faced by some neighborhoods:


I like this one too:


The paper tells the story of one man’s fight to save his home here. Somehow, stories like this always remind me of one of the favorite movies of my youth, The Naked Jungle.

A foot of snow is in the forecast for west central Minnesota, the impact of which on the river is not yet clear, but in any event floodwaters will pose a threat for the next week, at least.


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