FARGO — Cass County Sheriff Jesse Jahner said one of the worst things he's heard in past flood flights was "I didn't want to bother you."
"That's what you pay taxes for," he said. "Make sure and call."
Jahner and a team of county officials met with about 80 rural Cass County residents who live south of Interstate 94 in a flood preparation meeting Tuesday night, March 26, at Bennett Elementary School in Fargo.
Officials are gearing up for the mostly overland flooding starting with the need for volunteers to fill 300,000 sandbags at the county highway department near the Red River Valley Fairgrounds starting Wednesday, March 27, and continuing through April 5.
School students are filling some of the earlier shifts during the day, but 60 volunteers are needed in the other shifts from 2 to 5:30 p.m. and 5:30 to 8 p.m. shift during the week. Saturday, the shifts are from 8 a.m. to noon, noon to 4 p.m. and 4 to 8 p.m., with sandbag filling starting at noon Sundays. People can call volunteer coordinator Chip Ammerman at 701-239-6700 or 701-238-2732 to volunteer.
The sandbags are available to residents and will be dropped off by truck to isolated rural residences at a price of $100 for 1,000 bags. If trucks can't get to a home, they can have the unfilled sandbags dropped off at the rural home or farm with a load of sand for the same price and volunteers can assist filling and stacking them.
County Engineer Jason Benson explained that this year it'll be a lot easier for residents in five larger housing subdivisions in the southern part of the county. He said starting next week, they will be building levees with TrapBags, a series of pentagon-shaped bags that are filled at the scene with gravel or sand and are much larger than sandbags at 3 feet or 4 feet high. Benson said they are much easier to clean up. The first two subdivisions in the southern part of the county can be looking for the levee work to start early next week, with the other three subdivisions later in the week.
Benson also urged residents to be prepared for county and township roads to be closed, leaving residents isolated so they should also prepare with extra propane, food and other supplies.
Jahner said his department's No. 1 concern is public safety and that if the river reaches 32 feet, they will open their tactical operation center, where people can call 701-451-7660 or 701-241-8000 to report problems that will go directly to the sheriff's office. For emergencies, people should still call 911.
If the river reaches 35 feet, Jahner said they will call for additional help from around the state to help out with operations.
He also said the county is divided into three districts with deputies stationed in each of the areas to help. He said some of the deputies might be stopping at homes in the coming days to visit with residents to see if they might be leaving or staying.
Jahner said they do have two airboats that can be used to help if anyone needs an emergency evacuation. He also said for the first time, there is a law enforcement and fire department team that will be using a drone to assist in scoping out problem areas.
His other concerns are traffic control and criminals who might try to enter people's property if they evacuate.
He emphasized though that people should call with concerns.
Emergency Management Manager Jim Prochniak told residents they should sign up for the CodeRED emergency notification systems that can alert residents through voice, text or email about emergencies. He also urged residents not to drive through water, watch wiring because it doesn't mix with water, and for carbon monoxide problems. He also said people should be aware of stress because residents sometimes can't sleep if the flood worsens.
NDSU Extension was also on hand to offer assistance on its website and through phone calls. Their flood website is www.ag.ndsu.edu/flood.
Benson also said the county website at www.casscountynd.gov has a wealth of information, including how to build a levee from sandbags and updated river levels and road closures.
Another county meeting is planned for 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Harwood Community Center for residents north of Interstate 94 in Cass County.