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Published March 29, 2009, 02:00 AM

Dike fails at Fargo's Oak Grove Lutheran School, at least two buildings affected

A permanent dike at Oak Grove Lutheran School in Fargo has been breached, allowing water from the flooding Red River to pour into the school's buildings and force an evacuation of a support group monitoring the school's flood situation.

By: Dave Olson, INFORUM

A permanent dike at Oak Grove Lutheran School in Fargo has been breached, allowing water from the flooding Red River to pour into two of the school's buildings and force an evacuation of a support group monitoring the school's flood situation.

Bruce Messelt, president of Oak Grove, said water began pouring into the lower level of Benson Hall and eventually reached the Scheels Center for the Performing Arts but didn't get inside.

Two of the five buildings on campus -- Benson Hall and Jackson Hall -- had water in the basement, he said.

"Obviously, we're devestated by the impact this will have on our school," said Messelt.

Joel Swanson, a teacher at the school, said he was a member of a dike-watch team at the school about 1:15 a.m. when someone spotted water leaking from beneath a panel of the school's permanent floodwall.

He said despite efforts to seal the leak with sandbags the river quickly ate away the soil beneath the wall and water began pouring into the lower level of Benson Hall.

Swanson said volunteers attempted to stem the tide by sandbagging the stairwell, but the water quickly swamped that barrier as well.

"Basically, we tried to sandbag the stairwells to make sure we could keep the water in, but water is an amazing thing," said Swanson, who teaches earth science.

The City of Fargo issued a press release saying that a Code Red was sent out advising residents between the Oak Grove campus and Elm Street to plug their sewer drains and monitor their basements. The city did not order an evacuation.

Video: Oak Grove flooded

Messelt said the leak on the permanent dike is located behind a part of the campus known as the old administration building.

The National Guard, fire department units and police responded to calls for help and heavy equipment such as dumptrucks and payloaders as well as area lights, were moved to the scene as well. The school's emergency dike surrounding the school was breached by the first responders to move sandbags into the area. That spot was repaired to prevent flood waters from moving into the residential resident.

A message posted on the Oak Grove Web site at 3:45 a.m. said "No one is to attempt to go to campus. Dike patrol teams should not report to First Lutheran. Oak Grove’s server and phone lines are down. The Oak Grove email exchange server is not functioning. Please watch the website for updates."

According to documents posted on the school's Web site, groups of 12 people were organized for 8 hour shifts watching the school's protection dikes, seepage and water pumps.

Also on the school's Web site was an update posted at 3:30 p.m. Saturday explaining that a soft spot was discoverd in a dike on the school's south side. The Web site's update said that the Army Corps of Engineers worked on the spot and sandbags were added to the earthen dike between Benson Hall and the Eid Center. The school's steel flood wall was also raised to protect flood levels of 43 feet. It unknown whether those incidents are related to the breach of the dike.

Oak Grove school occupies 5.35 acres located along the Red River in north Fargo. It was established in 1906 and serves grades 6-12.

Check back to inforum.com for updates to this story.


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