Fargo Residents Work Into The Night To Fight Back Flood Waters

In Fargo, North Dakota residents are busy tonight filling sand bags and building temporary dikes in an effort to brace for expected flooding.

Army trucks are driving down along the Red River with more sand bags as teams of volunteers work into the dark night.

The streets of Fargo are lined with residents tonight together in a ballet of motion to fight back the Red River. Many remember the flood of 1997 and exchange tales of the time when tens of thousands had to run for their lives in in North Dakota, Minnesota and southern Canada. Eleven people didn’t make it out alive and property damage totaled $4.1 billion.

Mark McCourt
Fargosandbagsflood1997.jpg Sandbags holding back flood waters from a neighborhood. The homes in the nearby neighborhood were protected by this effort. (GNU Free Documentation License)

JoAnn Grey recounted the 1977 flood to AP:

“In ’97, I had three kids in diapers,” and had to leave as floodwaters approached. This time, her family, friends, and neighbors filled sandbags until midnight, with her children doing some of the work.

Students have been released from classes since Monday to help fill the nearly two million sand bags that are needed. That means the residents have to fill around 500,000 bags a day until Saturday if the dike is to be high enough.

On Monday Fargo city administrator Pat Zavoral estimated that Fargo was about 40 percent protected.

This year as spring rains have hammered down the river has swollen to epic proportions. Red River is expected to crest in Fargo late Friday.

The Inquirer reports:

“People are starting to realize how serious this situation is,” said Kyle Lunke, a student at North Dakota State University.

“Everybody counts in these times. We’d like to think they’d be there for us.”

North Dakota is already dealing with high waters in other areas. People caught in their homes are having to be air lifted out to safety.

As the Red River flows towards Canada North Dakota and Minnesota are being threatened by the mighty river. Down river there is good news for those in Breckenridge, Minn. as the waters were down to 18 feet on Wednesday morning. That kind of news fuels hope in Fargo. But the reality is that the river on Tuesday was at 30.5 feet, five feet higher than Monday morning.

The dike being built in the downtown will be 42 feet. Tuesday weather forecasts put the Red River between 39 and 41 feet by Saturday morning.

Pat Slattery of the National Weather Service warns:

“You will have an extremely wide river,” said Slattery, who said a stretch of waterway that now measures 100 yards wide “might turn into a mile to a mile-and-a-half.”

“It’s very hard to get this stuff to run off,” he added. “Your soil up there is totally saturated.”

Mark McCourt
(GNU Free Documentation License) Fargofloodprotectionwater1997.jpg Completed floodwall and sandbag dikes near several homes. The homes in the nearby neighborhood were protected by this effort.

As the residents prepare for the rising waters Verizon Wireless is also working hard to get ready for the possible disaster.

This week they have added 25 per cent more capacity to individual cell sites as needed in areas where consumers are increasing usage of the network.

Verizon is also filling up sandbags. They have 2,000 ready for their needs. Four cell sites have been sandbagged at this time.

They are hoping that by having pre-positioned portable cell sites known as Cells on Wheels (COWS) and a Cells on Light Truck (COLTS), and generators on trailers (GOaTS) that can be rolled into hard-hit locations or areas that need extra network capacity that anyone in trouble will be able to call out for help.

PRN Newswire reports:

“As we’ve seen in past storm seasons, wireless communication is crucial during an emergency,” said Nancy Clark, president–Great Plains Region, Verizon Wireless. “It is important that we implement a comprehensive plan to make sure the network stays strong and calls go through when and where they’re needed most.”

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