Record flooding imminent

The National Weather Service said there is a chance the Red River could hit record flood stages this year, updating the most recent crest predictions to 39 to 41 feet, with the river perhaps surpassing the previous 40.82 feet set in 2009.

Record amounts of snow and later- than-usual winter storms have led to large precipitation build up on top of the snowpack, the accumulation and various layers of packed snow. With the colder temperatures lasting into the spring months, the snowpacks will melt at a faster rate, along with the additional precipitation atop the snowpack; major flooding is imminent throughout the Red River Valley.

Nearly every year the Fargo- Moorhead area has fought the flood battle, with the last two years being mild in comparison to the flood of 2009. Setting up shop at Sandbag Central in north Fargo has become routine for many members of the community.

Sandbag Central runs like a well- oiled machine. After checking in at the First Link table, one walks into a large warehouse. Hundreds of people are working furiously to fill sandbags and help meet the 120,000 per-day averages from the last cycle. Several stations are set up around the warehouse. In each corner of the room, there are sandbag filling locations. Large conveyer belt machines known as spiders,” carry sand up to 12 different chutes. The sand comes down out of the chute to a volunteer waiting with a sandbag ready to be filled. After the bag is filled, it is sent down the line to be tied off and stacked on a pallet. 

In the fourth corner of the warehouse, there is a large pile of sand where workers shovel sand into bags. Volunteers are working tirelessly to beat the water.

It takes the combined efforts of more than 300 volunteers and multiple organizations at any given time to be running at full capacity. Volunteers are needed to shovel sand on the sand spider, unpack empty bags to be filled, transfer the bags to the filling location, fill the bags themselves, tie the bags off and stack them on the pallet. They also need fork lift drivers to bring the bags to the trucks and truck drivers.

That’s just the bag filling process.

There is help from First Link to line up volunteers and conduct the volunteer check-in process, the American Red Cross and Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services take turns serving food and water to volunteers, the Fargo Fire Department is on scene to offer assistance and there are five Public Information Officers on staff to handle the media. Moorhead State University class of 1994 graduate Theresa Orecchia serves as one of the five PIO officers for Fargo-Cass Public Health.

Each day there are several student volunteers from high schools and colleges all over the region. A majority of public schools in the Fargo-Moorhead area have sent volunteers to help the cause. Some MSUM students are also helping in the fight.

Rachelle Fortier, a communications studies senior, and other members of her group and team communications class has been helping out First Link at the volunteer check-in table for a service-learning project.

MSUM biology junior, Kimberly Vang also plans to help out at Sandbag Central this week.

“It’s a great way to give back to the community and a great waytoofferhelp,”Vangsaid. “Especially coming from the Twin Cities which doesn’t have to worry about flooding.”

The city of Fargo hopes to fill 500,000 sandbags in this five- day cycle. With just over 200,000 sandbags to fill by Wednesday, officials are confident the goal will be reached, but they are still asking for as many volunteers as possible.

Despite the potential of major flooding in the area, MSUM officials affirmed that the school will not be affected unless the river crests higher than 42 feet. The city of Moorhead has 400,000 sandbags in reserve, ready to be used to combat flood levels of up to 43 feet. The Red River is currently at 16.19 feet, up nearly a foot from Friday, with flood stage starting at 18 feet and major flooding at 30 feet.

For more information on current flood conditions, visit valleyfloodwatch.com.

BY MEREDITH WATHNE
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