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Sandbags in place as Red River rises

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Fargo on high alert for flood
  • Red River was 17 feet above its flood stage in Fargo, North Dakota, on Friday afternoon
  • River expected to crest this weekend, but not as high as last year's record 40.8 feet
  • More than 1 million sandbags have been filled in Fargo and Moorhead, Minnesota
  • Despite flooding, Fargo mayor says, "we're in good shape today"

(CNN) -- Seven hundred thousand sandbags guarded the city of Fargo, North Dakota, Friday, lumpy and forlorn sentinels against the rising waters of the Red River.

With the river at 17 feet above its flood stage, residents hoped they had done enough to protect themselves.

"The river is definitely well over its banks and has gone into adjacent city parks, different areas that are noncritical, not people's backyards, or businesses or anything like that," said Fargo spokeswoman Robyn Litke.

The river stood at 35.5 feet Friday afternoon, and rising by about an inch an hour. The river is expected to crest this weekend, about three feet below last year's record flood level of 40.8 feet.

Residents in Fargo and across the river in Moorhead, Minnesota, said they were optimistic after filling more than a million sandbags between the two cities and stacking most of them.

"We're in good shape and we have a lot of things in place in case there are any problems," Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said. The city said Friday that the levees to the north and south of Fargo have been completed.

"Residents are asked to be vigilant and monitor their dikes," the city said in an e-mail.

Eight "quick reaction" National Guard teams are in the city and in surrounding Cass County, filling 50 one-ton sandbags for larger protection projects, such as potentially broken dikes, on Friday, the city said. Chinook helicopters are also available to transport bags and equipment if necessary, the city said.

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  • Floods
  • Minnesota
  • North Dakota

"We got done what we wanted to do as far as our goals for the flood of 2010 so we're in good shape today," Walaker said Thursday. But still parts of Fargo were flooding Friday, city officials said.

The annual flooding began last week when warmer weather and rain melted snow south of Fargo and Moorhead causing the Red River to swell. Upstream, snow and ice have yet to melt, pushing water back toward the two cities.

In the rural town of Hickson, about 15 miles south of Fargo, some homes in the area have been surrounded by water, and residents have had to used boats to get around. Some residents parked their cars blocks away from their homes, walking to the edge of the river where they have their boats parked.

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Blain Johnson, 21, rowed home in waters that he estimated were 5 feet deep.

"This used to be a horse pasture below us," Johnson said. Johnson said this is the fourth time his neighborhood has been inundated with water in the 10 years he has lived here. Each flood brings stress and fear but, he said, he was trying to keep a positive outlook.

"Not everybody can say they can fish out of their window," Johnson said.

CNN's Chris Welch, Steve Kastenbaum, Richard Benson and Shelby Erdman contributed to this report.