FARGO, N.D. — Volunteers shoveled heaps of sand and carefully maneuvered around humming machinery yesterday inside a warehouse dubbed Sandbag Central in Fargo, where officials hope to pile up 3 million sandbags as the eastern North Dakota city prepares for a third major flood in as many years.
Efforts are starting early to prepare for flooding along the Red River in Fargo and neighboring Moorhead, Minn. The National Weather Service predicts that spring snow melt will help swell the river over its flood stage, possibly breaking the record set in 2009 when floods caused an estimated $100 million in damage.
Businesses and homeowners scrambled to prepare the past two years — school officials even canceled classes so students could help fill sandbags. But this year, city officials are hoping the early start will spread out the workload, ease flood fatigue, and keep most students in class.
“We think this will allow everybody to avoid that crisis mode,’’ said Bruce Grubb, a city employee in his third year of directing operations at the warehouse.
The city asked businesses to commit to help early even though the river isn’t likely to crest for at least six weeks.
In 2009, the river was above flood stage for a record 61 days. Last year’s flooding wasn’t nearly as severe, but forecasters say there’s about a 50 percent chance this year could be worse than 2010, and about a 20 percent chance the river could swell past its 2009 level.