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Published April 07, 2009, 12:00 AM

Oxbow residents prep for ‘round two’ of flood fight

OXBOW, N.D. – Floodwaters have eroded their backyards. Now, it’s wearing away their optimism.

By: Kelly Smith, INFORUM

OXBOW, N.D. – Floodwaters have eroded their backyards. Now, it’s wearing away their optimism.

The last battle with rising floodwaters a little more than a week ago has left weary residents such as Steve Sorenson drained after having had to evacuate his flooded home once before.

“Not that great,” he said Monday about how he’s doing now. “Everybody’s tired – there’s no question of that.”

Still without electricity, water and sewage, Sorenson shrugged off the National Weather Service’s latest prediction that river levels could surpass the last and break the recently set record.

“We’re hoping they’re wrong on the prediction,” he said as a generator buzzed nearby. “I obviously didn’t believe it right away.”

Neither did the other 200-some residents. Thinking the worst was over, there was already talk of a celebratory party.

But that – and routine life – are still a ways off for Oxbow residents, hugging the border near both the Red and Wild Rice rivers.

“If we give in, then it beats us,” Oxbow City Councilman Bill Kuzas said as co-workers sandbagged, trading suits and ties for hunting gear and boots. “It’s the fourth quarter, so we can’t quit now.”

While hundreds of people turned out a couple of weeks ago to help Oxbow, numbers of volunteers waned Monday as businesses and schools resumed.

“We could’ve used 200, but we didn’t get that,” Kuzas said. “But we’ll get it done with whatever we have, even if we’re here until 3 in the morning.”

As crews put up a Hesco barrier, about a dozen volunteers filled sandbags. By today, they hope to have built a ring dike around neighborhoods and shored up all the homes’ sandbag dikes before rivers possibly peak again Sunday.

“It seems pretty familiar, but you gotta keep fighting it,” said Sorenson, who didn’t “even put a sandbag down” in the 1997 flood.

Now, while his wife stays temporarily in Fargo, he’s preparing for a rough rematch with floodwaters.

This time, if offered a buyout after floodwaters recede, he said he’ll take it.

“I think people are just doggone tired,” said Kuzas, adding they’ll pour whatever energy they have left to protect their town. “I still think it’s the best-kept secret around. We’re not going to win round one and not win round two.”

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