Image: A.J. Luick, Lukas Croaker
Michael Vosburg  /  AP
A.J. Luick, left, prepares to hand a sandbag to fellow Kindred High School student Lukas Croaker while volunteering on Monday in Oxbow, N.D.  Many residents are preparing for the second flood crest which is expected later this month.
updated 4/8/2009 6:00:51 AM ET 2009-04-08T10:00:51

Marc Shannon says he trusts the two-week-old sandbag dike behind his south Fargo house, but that didn't stop him from asking a passing survey crew for some help as he prepared for a second crest of the swollen Red River.

"Can you do me a huge favor?" Shannon asked one crew as they walked neighborhoods Tuesday using lasers to check dike levels. "Can you shoot my step there so I know what my main floor is?"

Shannon wanted to know how high waters would have to creep to flood the first floor of his house. After surviving a record-setting crest at the end of March, he and other weary Fargo residents were hoping their sandbags can handle another round.

There was some relief Tuesday after the newest crest prediction came in lower than preliminary estimates. The Red River crested at 40.82 feet on March 28. The National Weather Service now projects a second crest between 38 and 40 feet in mid-April — a measure of good news after forecasters had given a 75 percent chance just last week that the river could hit 41 feet or more.

"At 38 feet, boy, we're standing tall and maybe we can start to put this town back together again," Mayor Dennis Walaker said.

Engineers are confident that the sandbag dikes feverishly constructed in neighborhoods late last month can handle another round, with a little more work from weary residents. The dikes were built to 43 feet and remain there, and they protected Fargo and neighboring Moorhead, Minn. — a metro area of about 128,000 people — from widespread damage.

'Re-energize the community'
But they want residents to check both themselves and their sandbags for signs of fatigue.

"We're going to have to do the best we can to re-energize the community and get those levees where they need to be," said April Walker, a city engineer.

The city is also again asking for volunteers to help make sandbags Wednesday morning at the Fargodome parking lot, in hopes of bumping up their stores from 200,000 to 500,000. Those will be used primarily to shore up dikes and fill leaks, officials said.

This spring's lingering Red River flooding comes from a combination of record precipitation in the fall, an early freeze, heavy snows and saturated soils. A slow melt and the lack of precipitation in the last week are good signs, the weather service said.

In the meantime, neighborhoods are quiet except for occasional National Guard trucks ferrying sandbags. Brady Oberg, a private surveyor hired by the city, said he hasn't seen many residents on his daily rounds.

Video: Salvation for flood victims

"Everybody seems to be at work now," Oberg said. "It will probably look a little different in a couple of days."

National Guard workers dropped off several pallets of sandbags in Shannon's driveway on Monday night. Guard trucks drove through a hole in a backup levee that puts Shannon's house on the wrong side of the dike. Visitors must park two blocks away and climb a temporary wooden staircase over the mud wall.

"It's a heck of a mess and it doesn't make you feel very good," Shannon said of the backup levee. "But you have to have it, because somebody along here could have made a bad dike. It just takes one spot."

Some, like Maj. Gen. Dave Sprynczynatyk of the North Dakota National Guard, are worried that the age of the sandbags will require more constant monitoring the second time around.

Walker, the city engineer, said most of the sandbags have been protected with plastic sheeting and appear to be holding up.

"A few weeks is not, in my mind, a big deal for a sandbag," Walker said.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Fighting floodwaters in Fargo

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  1. This satellite image released Tuesday shows the flooded Red River on Sunday as it divides North Dakota and Minnesota in the Fargo area. (Digitalglobe via Getty Images / Getty Images Contributor) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Snow falls in downtown Fargo on Monday. The city's heavy equipment was pulled away from the ongoing levee construction to deal with the snowstorm. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. The driver of this truck braved floodwaters and ice slabs on Monday driving along Interstate 29, north of Grand Forks, N.D. (Eric Hylden / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. National Guard soldiers prepare to launch large sheets of plastic with sandbag weights over the side of an earthen dike on the southside of Fargo Monday. Engineers hoped the plastic barrier will help prevent erosion as snow followed by high winds and blizzard conditions entered the region. (Allen Fredrickson / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. The Red River had swamped these homes Monday in Moorhead, Minn. (Elaine Thompson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. An ice formation on a tree indicates the height of floodwaters, after the Red River receded in Oxbow, south of Fargo, on Sunday. (Eric Miller / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. This sign is among the ways residents of Fargo, N.D., are thanking the thousands of volunteer sandbaggers. (Daniel Barry / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. A bitter cold did not stop folks in Fargo from attending a prayer service Sunday. (Daniel Barry / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Randy Richards uses a broom handle Sunday to measure the depth of the receding Red River floodwater that surrounds his brother's home in Fargo. (Eric Miller / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. The flood threat hadn't killed all signs of humor -- this one was spotted in the front window of a home in rural Fargo Sunday. (Carson Walker / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Volunteers work to fill sandbags Sunday in Fargo. The effort has been going on for more than a week in the city and other areas along the Red River. (Daniel Barry / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Carl Sinner shows off his "catch," a walleye pillow, as he and friends Dennis McIntyre, left, and Dick Roswick take a break Sunday from days of fighting Red River floodwaters to save Roswick's home in Fargo. (Eric Miller / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. People work to funnel floodwater out of a building at the Oak Grove Lutheran school on Sunday in Fargo. The bloated Red River briefly breached a dike early Sunday, pouring water into the school campus. Crews managed to largely contain the flooding, preventing more widespread damage in nearby areas. (Elaine Thompson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Bob Smith, left, and Jared Bakko head back to their cars after Smith checked on his house and Bakko took supplies to his grandmother as the Red River flood waters began to recede just south of Moorhead, Minn., on Saturday. (Craig Lassig / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. David Marshall lowers a current meter into the swollen Red River from a closed bridge between Moorhead, Minn.,and Fargo, N.D., on Saturday. (Jim Mone / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A road is covered by floodwaters on Saturday. (Carolyn Kaster / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Homes are surrounded by floating ice and floodwater as the Red River continues to rise on Saturday in Fargo, N.D. The normal banks of the river are defined by the twisting tree line and the ice toward the bottom of the picture is floodwater. (Carolyn Kaster / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Farrell Turner carries Nathaniel Jones while Amanda Monson, Ashley Jones and Cody Turner unload some belongings as they evacuate their home because of the Red River flood in Moorhead, Minn., on Friday. (Craig Lassig / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Lowell Bottrell paddles his canoe through icy floodwater up to a neighbor's home as the Red River continues to rise on Friday. (Carolyn Kaster / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Evelyn Radke is comforted by Anna Charles, right and Ves Marinov as she is evacuated with the rest of the residents at the Elim Rehab & Care Center on Thursday in Fargo. (Carolyn Kaster / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Randy Haas steps off a Coast Guard air boat after being rescued from his flooded home Thursday in Oxbow, N.D. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Vic Klosterman walks through flooding from the Red River in front of his home south of Fargo on Thursday. (Eric Miller / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Volunteers ride in the scoop of a front end loading tractor after sandbagging around a home threatened by flood waters from the Red River in Fargo on Thrusday. (Eric Miller / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Volunteers hitch a ride in a dump truck to help residents sandbag their homes as water from the Red River continues to rise on Wednesday. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Emergency workers use an air boat to rescue Destiny Dolan, 15, front left, and friend Kayla Weston, 15, on Wednesday. Dolan said the experience of being trapped was terrifying. (Nate Jenkins / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Michael Stensgard uses one of his family's boats to get back to their home from the Red River on Wednesday, near Fargo. (Richard Tsong-taatarii / The Star Tribune) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. One of Doug Stensguard's dogs, Annie, looks out over what used to be a 5-acre yard and an outbuilding that was flooded by the rising Red River on Tuesday in Fargo. Stensguard built an earthen and sandbag dike around his home in the hope of holding back the rising floodwater from the Red River. (Carolyn Kaster / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Zach Boor, 12, whose face is splattered with mud, passes a sandbag down the line as he joined college students to help build a dike along the north side of Rose Coulee on Monday in Fargo. Boor was excused from classes at Discovery Middle School so he could join thousands of other volunteers to build dikes to protect the city from the flooding Red River. (Dave Wallis / The Forum via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. North Dakota Army National Guard troops haul away empty palettes from River Shore Drive on Monday. (Dave Arntson / Zuma Press) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Volunteers help place sandbags outside the home of Jeremy Kuipers in Moorhead, Minn., on Tuesday. (Richard Tsong-taatarii / The Minneapolis Star Tribune via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. As the Red River rises in the background, Gloria Brown hauls a wagon load of sandbags to pile around her neighbor's home Tuesday in Fargo. (Carolyn Kaster / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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