March 29, 2009 / 4:49 PM / 9 years ago

School in Fargo swamped by flood river

FARGO, North Dakota (Reuters) - A dike holding back the swollen Red River failed early on Sunday and swamped a school, but a backup dike contained the spill and cold weather favored flood fighting efforts.

<p>A pickup truck travels a county road flooded by the Sheyenne River north of Fargo, North Dakota, March 29, 2009. REUTERS/Eric Miller</p>

No one was injured in the spill, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman Frank Worley said on Sunday.

Engineers noticed shifting in the permanent earth dike near the private Oak Grove Lutheran School in Fargo on Saturday and had tried to shore it up with more sandbags. Another dike location had been shored up, he said.

The Corps is overseeing efforts by hundreds of National Guard troops, local residents and volunteers to reinforce and raise sandbagged barriers, dikes and other floodwalls around this metropolitan area of 175,000 people.

“We’re really in a place where we’re maintaining right now,” Sergeant Ross Renner of Fargo Police Department said.

The river’s level continued to edge lower and was 40.15 feet at 8:15 a.m. CDT/9:15 a.m. EDT on Sunday, down from a record 40.82 feet on Saturday.

Cold weather has frozen flood waters in area fields, keeping spring melt from further swelling the river.

The Red River Valley is an important farming region for spring wheat and sugar beets, although spring planting is still weeks away. Wet soil could delay some seeding, which for wheat and corn can go well into May. U.S. wheat prices fell on Friday as snowstorms in the Plains added needed soil moisture.

The temperature in Fargo was 26 degrees F (minus 6 Celsius) as of 9:53 a.m. CDT (2:53 p.m. EDT), with overcast skies and a high of 34 F expected, the National Weather Service said.

The weather service said the river could still rise. Its current level is higher than the previous record of 40.10 feet set in 1897.

The NWS is forecasting a storm to hit southeastern North Dakota and west central Minnesota, including the Fargo area, on Monday and Tuesday, possibly dumping more than six inches of snow. Expected higher winds could also test floodwalls.

Reporting by Rod Nickel in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Rich Mattern in Fargo. Editing by Peter Bohan and Patricia Zengerle

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