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Published March 26, 2009, 12:00 AM

Weather not slowing flood-fight volunteers

The blustery, bitter cold weather Wednesday may have hampered traffic, but it didn’t seem to slow down flood-fighting efforts.

By: Kelly Smith, INFORUM

The blustery, bitter cold weather Wednesday may have hampered traffic, but it didn’t seem to slow down flood-fighting efforts.

“It’s a typical North Dakota spring day,” said Fargo resident Lee Hoedl as he took a break from sandbagging to warm his hands by an outdoor fireplace. “Green grass one day, snow the next.”

He said the only change Wednesday in the atmosphere among volunteers was the frenzied pace with which dozens of sandbaggers filled Fargo’s Oak Creek subdivision – racing the clock to finish building dikes.

“It’s like throwing bricks,” Minnesota State Community and Technical College student Drew Courtney said of the frozen sandbags as he clutched coffee during a break.

The thick mud-caked residential roads were littered with empty pallets as forklifts moved up and down the street.

But forget the falling snow and freezing temps – waiting for more sandbags was the volunteers’ sole complaint Wednesday.

“I don’t even notice it’s snowing,” said North Dakota State University student Matt Breiland. “We’ve got the people to do it; we just don’t have the sandbags.”

North Dakota Army National Guard Staff Sgt. Austin Gordon said trucks and machines at “Sandbag Central” were working as usual Wednesday.

“It hasn’t slowed down at all,” Gordon said. “We are pumping out sandbags as much as we can.”

Now, it’s driving home that volunteers are dreading.

“Driving last night was scary,” said College of St. Benedict senior Alix Hammerschmidt, who was sandbagging with central Minnesota classmates. “The spirits (here) are still really high.”

And that just might be the silver lining: The flooding has bonded residents of communities from two states.

“We’re friends now,” Hoedl said of a fellow sandbagger. “It really is a Midwestern community.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Kelly Smith at (701) 241-5515

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