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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Red River Flooding

Once again I find myself in Fargo North Dakota serving with the Salvation Army's Emergency Disaster Response Team. The Red River has filled up with melting snow and ice and is rising rising rising rising.  The water level in Fargo this morning was at 33.8 feet and is expected to rise another 6 feet before it starts to go down.  Last year the river crested at 40.8 feet.

Between last year and this year the cities in this area made extensive renovations and changes in their flood preparedness plans - more dikes, higher walls, contacts and contracts in place before the floods, etc... 

So while there is some anxiety about the rising waters, there isn't quite the FEAR that there was last year - and so far - there hasn't been a flooding of the inhabited areas.

In Fargo, over 1 Million sandbags have been prepared and 740,000 placed along the river banks - with the remaining bags kept in heated storage areas in case they are needed.  The heated storage is important since the bags become ineffectual when they freeze.  And though the river is diked and sandbagged, there are the cold and freezing temperatures at night. This, along with unpredictable weather (could there be more snow or rain?) could leave the cities vulnerable to flooding.

Further north in Grand Forks, North Dakota, Salvation Army volunteers are assisting the community of Oslo - a small town that is turned into an island protected by sandbags when the river floods.  Sandbag crews are building up the walls that will protect that little community.

Westward is the city of Jamestown, North Dakota.  I was there last year as well.  There the Pipestem and the James rivers converge and a lot of water is forced to flow through a very small area.  Last year it flooded the city.  So far, the city is dry, but city officials and Salvation Army volunteers are waiting and watching and preparing against the worst.

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