March 17th, 2010
09:09 AM ET

Red River at major flood stage in North Dakota

The Red River at Fargo, North Dakota, reached "major flood stage" early Wednesday as the National Guard and a small army of volunteers filled sandbags to keep the waters at bay.

"Everybody is just focused on battling it once again and they're doing it with smiles on their faces," said Staff Sgt. Amy Wieser Willson of the North Dakota National Guard.

The river rose to a record 40.8 at Fargo in 2009. As of about 7 a.m. Wednesday (8 a.m. ET), the river stood at 30.34 feet, 12 feet above the flood stage of 18 feet and past major flood stage. Floodwaters are forecast to peak at 38 feet this weekend.

"Very stressful for a lot of people, especially after seeing how much damage and how long the flood fight went on last year," Willson said.  About 300 people were helping on the sandbag lines as the community raced to fill 1 million of them.

Last week, warm weather and rain melted snow south of Fargo and Moorhead, Minnesota, causing the Red River to swell. Upstream, snow and ice have yet to melt, pushing water back toward the two cities.

Major flood stage is a term the National Weather Services uses to describe flooding causing "extensive inundation of structures and roads" and possibly the "significant evacuations of people and the transfer of property to higher elevations."

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