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Wayback Wednesday: Record-breaking flood 10 years ago this week

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Volunteers use shovels to keep the sand moving into funnels to fill sand bags Saturday at Fargo's central production location.

Ten years ago this week, Fargo-Moorhead residents were fighting the biggest flood in the community's history.

On Friday, March 27, 2009, the Red River nudged past its 112-year-old record crest of 40.1 feet.

The flood caused the mandatory evacuation of several neighborhoods, but many people chose to stay back and fight the ravaging Red — patrolling dikes in their neighborhoods and manning sump pumps. For the first time in its history, Meritcare hospital in Fargo evacuated patients as a precaution. Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker, already a veteran of the devastating 1997 flood, wasn't throwing in the towel.

"We want to go down swinging if we go down," he said at the time.

One of the greatest weapons in the flood fight proved to be the area's young people. Fargo and Moorhead schools took a bold step and canceled classes so students could assist in the efforts. High school and college students came out in force to fill sandbags at volunteer centers, including the Fargodome. Their effort was so impressive that The Forum would later name young flood-fighters as "The Forum's Person of the Year 2009."

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By Saturday, March 28, 2009, the river finally crested at 40.84 feet. But residents could not relax. They had to stay vigilant, keeping a close eye for levee breaks and approaching weather.

On Sunday, March 29, Fargo's Oak Grove Lutheran School experienced a breach of its permanent floodwall. But Sunday was also a day of prayer and reflection.

RELATED: Click here for more coverage of the 10th anniversary of the 2009 flood

"If there's ever been a time God's people need to be praying, this is the time," said The Rev. Vern Baardson of Triumph West Community Church.

By the time the water receded, between 100 and 150 homes in Cass County had sustained some water damage. In Clay County, approximately 70 homes ended up with major water damage.

Experts agreed it could have been much worse had it not been for thousands of volunteers who put in the blood, sweat and tears to save the community.

More flood 2009 anniversary coverage...

Tracy Briggs is an Emmy-nominated News, Lifestyle and History reporter with Forum Communications with more than 35 years of experience, in broadcast, print and digital journalism.
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