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Published March 25, 2009, 12:00 AM

Rural Cass digs in for record crests

Should I stay or should I go? Residents in developments just south of Fargo asked themselves that on Tuesday as the projections for record-high crests on the Red and Wild Rice rivers held firm.

By: Dave Roepke, INFORUM

Should I stay or should I go?

Residents in developments just south of Fargo asked themselves that on Tuesday as the projections for record-high crests on the Red and Wild Rice rivers held firm.

At Heritage Hills Estates, a subdivision off 88th Avenue South that was only navigable by boat by the early afternoon, more than half apparently picked “go.”

By the count of Barry Olander, who has lived in the area since 1989, no sandbagging was done for seven of the subdivision’s 13 houses. Though driveways had become docks, most homes were still dry. But not for long, Olander said.

“If we go to 41 feet, we’re going to lose a lot of houses,” he said. “I think some of them are hoping FEMA buys them out.”

Steve and Diane Heier opted to fight.

The couple live along Highway 81, just north of one of the final bends the Wild Rice takes before spilling into the Red. They thought about heading for high ground when they heard the projection for a crest 2½ feet higher than the 1997 record high.

But county officials think the water for the Wild Rice won’t go over the highway, which meant the Heiers only had to extend their wooden flood wall another foot or so.

What if it does go high enough to come over the road?

“We’re history,” said Diane Heier.

In the Forest River area, right down the road from a levee circling the Maple Prairie subdivision, homeowners who did not have sandbags in place worked feverishly to stack to 41 feet and above.

“I’m a little anxious right now,” said Jerry Farol, who just returned from wintering in Arizona on Monday night. Work on his sandbag wall began Tuesday morning with the help of dozens of volunteers. He hoped to continue through the night to beat forecast snow and cold.

“I don’t know if we can stand it,” said Farol, a retired paper distribution manager. “I can hardly stand now.”

Trouble getting sand for bagging Monday turned up the heat Tuesday for many in the area.

“Most of this stuff could have been done yesterday,” said Bill Bellas. He and his wife, Jenny, like others in rural subdivisions, didn’t get shipments of sand they ordered Monday until Tuesday. With nothing for them do, volunteers trickled away Monday.

Along with the constant noise and mess of trucks hauling clay to the dikes Cass County finished building south of Fargo on Tuesday, the delays were galling, Jenny Bellas said.

“We’re second-class citizens, basically,” she said. “It feels like a war zone

out here.”

Dwayne Schell, who lives just down the street from Bellas, said he also had no sand for portions of the day Monday and Tuesday, despite repeated requests.

Eric Hayes, one of just a couple of homeowners still sandbagging on Tuesday in Heritage Hills, said he thinks the lack of sand also prevented some homeowners there from bagging.

Things were more serene on Chrisan Boulevard. A strip of homes along the Red River, despite being on the other side of an earthen county levee, were in good shape, said Russ Richards, who lives on the block.

Neighbors who had been building bag dikes since as early as Friday finally had a chance to rest as the sky began to darken Tuesday. A group of about a half-dozen clutched cans of beer in a garage and talked about the only thing on anyone’s mind: the flood.

“It’s the waiting game now,” Richards said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535

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