FARGO — After working through the night, Fargo Police Officer Danica Rozich went straight to Sandbag Central on Tuesday, March 26.
The 26-year-old patrols the city from 10 p.m. to 7:45 a.m. and planned on volunteering for the first day of sandbag operations until 1:30 p.m. Rozich, a Michigan native who moved to Fargo last year, said she’s never fought a flood before.
“It’s a lot more serious than I thought it was going to be. I’m impressed the kids are working so hard,” she said while still in uniform stacking white bags on pallets.
Rozich said she doesn’t get to interact too much with people, especially kids, when the city is sleeping. But on Tuesday, she was working side-by-side with droves of middle schoolers from Ben Franklin busy filling sandbags before the next busload of students arrived.
Sandbag Central, 2301 8th Ave. N., opened its doors at 7 a.m. Tuesday to start working on the city’s goal of filling 1 million bags in the next two weeks. The piles of sand are leftover from the last time the city sandbagged in 2011, said city spokesman Gregg Schildberger.
To reach the goal of 1 million sandbags, 100,000 bags must be filled daily and that takes about 1,500 tons of sand, Schildberger said. Known as "spiders," two sandbagging machines with about a dozen legs can fill 120 bags per minute.
Though it appears there will be enough volunteers this week, Schildberger said there is concern about next week when “we need to be just as strong if not stronger.”
Don Voeller, 80, said he’s never helped sandbag before Tuesday, but it’s never too late to lend a helping hand.
“Why not help? I’m not doing anything,” he said. “If you’re physically fit and want to do something, you don’t have to work all day, you can work a few hours. And you’ll go home and your heart will be that much bigger.”
Children as young as 3 years old were filling bags Tuesday, and a group of adults with disabilities pitched in as well.
Alyssa Whiting, of Connections Adult Day Center in Moorhead, brought a handful of her clients who were looking forward to helping. Whiting said her clients have daily community outings and all this week groups of them will be visiting Sandbag Central.
Volunteers are coming from as far as Abercrombie, N.D., and Winnipeg to help with efforts to protect the city.
The Red River in Fargo is expected to reach its major flood level of 30 feet in the coming weeks, with the crest predicted for mid-April, according to the National Weather Service. There’s about a 5 percent chance the river could break its 2009 record of 40.84 feet.
“Even if you don't live in the floodplain, you can still help people that are closer to the river," said Brody Wilander, who was sandbagging for the first time Tuesday morning.
How to help
- Fargo needs volunteers from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays at Sandbag Central, 2301 8th Ave. N. The city is having trouble filling morning and evening time slots. To sign up, visit www.FargoND.gov/FloodVolunteers or call 701-476-4000.
- Moorhead's Sandbag Operations Center, 1313 30th Ave. S., opens at 9 a.m. Wednesday, March 27. Volunteers can call 218-299-5300 to register, or find more information at www.cityofmoorhead.com/flood.
- Cass County plans to start filling sandbags at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the county highway department in West Fargo, 1201 Main Ave. Volunteers can sign up at www.casscountynd.gov or call 701-239-6700.
Clay County Sheriff Mark Empting said 250,000 sandbags are available to residents through the county's townships. Rural homeowners are responsible for filling and placing sandbags on their property.