City officials and volunteers will work Tuesday to build sandbag walls and temporary levees in Fargo and Moorhead's low-lying neighborhoods as the cities prepare for the Red River to crest on Saturday.
Minnesota National Guard troops have been activated to help the Red River Valley and other areas of the state with flood preparations and emergency relief after Gov. Tim Pawlenty declared a flood emergency in 28 counties.
In Fargo-Moorhead, the river is expected to reach between 37 and 39 feet at its crest, which would put many basements and yards under water despite being several feet below last year's record level.
Still, for some, this year's fight will actually be easier than last year's. Last time around, Fargo resident Marc Shannon had to maneuver around a 10-foot-high clay dike that cut his house off from the outside world.
"We're all feeling pretty calm compared to last year," Shannon said, while preparing to melt ice in his backyard to make room for a sandbag dike. "Without that clay dike in the streets this year, this is going to be a walk in the park."
Last year, about 100 homes in the area were damaged and thousands of people were evacuated after the Red River rose above the flood stage for a record 61 days and crested twice. Officials say they are better prepared this year for flooding thanks to early stockpiling of sandbags and the building of stronger levees across the region.
"This year, the dike we'll have to build will be 3 feet less than last year," Shannon said. "It's manageable."
Moorhead planned a special City Council meeting Tuesday afternoon to consider requesting help from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to construct clay levees.
In some places in the two cities, stronger clay levees are being built where sandbag dikes were used last year.
SPIKE IN VOLUNTEER TURNOUT
Fargo officials planned a meeting Tuesday morning to discuss preparation efforts.
On Monday, officials noticed a jump in the number of volunteers who were turning out to help fill sandbags.
North Dakota State University and Minnesota State University in Moorhead were both on spring break, so it was unclear how many of those students were still in town. But Fargo's high school and middle school students were to be released Tuesday to help with the flood fight.
Concordia College in Moorhead also canceled classes for Tuesday so students could help.
Elsewhere in Minnesota, the Minnesota River at Montevideo was expected to be just shy of major flood stage this weekend, and the South Fork of the Crow River at Delano could be 3 feet over flood stage by Saturday.
The Mississippi River in St. Paul is also expected to reach flood stage.
(MPR reporter Mark Steil and The Associated Press contributed to this report.)