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FLOOD UPDATE: Grand Forks Air Base will serve as FEMA's flood-fighting staging area

GRAND FORKS, N.D. - Grand Forks Air Force Base is in the middle of flood-relief efforts in the Red River Valley. The base will act as FEMA's staging area for logistics and support, and will provide housing for disaster response teams from the U.S.

GRAND FORKS, N.D. - Grand Forks Air Force Base is in the middle of flood-relief efforts in the Red River Valley.

The base will act as FEMA's staging area for logistics and support, and will provide housing for disaster response teams from the U.S. Coast Guard, North Dakota National Guard and Civil Air Patrol.

A 40,000-square-foot former air refueling squadron has been prepared to serve as office space for flood-relief contributors.

Additionally, the 319th Air Refueling Wing's fitness center has been converted into reception and temporary housing areas for federal and state employees.

Base personnel and buildings are equipped to provide food and shelter for evacuees, if necessary.

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"Providing facilities, lodging and sustenance is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what the Warriors of the North will do to support this massive effort," said Col. John Michel, 319th Air Refueling Wing commander.

"We are all in and poised to integrate and synchronize with our FEMA teammates in flood abatement for the communities within the Red River Valley."

The base airfield is prepared to receive more than 27 additional fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft and about 700 personnel assigned to search, rescue and cargo transport operations. The base also will host medical evacuation aircraft and personnel.

The base also has provided heavy equipment, operators and storage areas to support flood operations.

The Grand Forks Public School District has a contingency plan in place to take in flood evacuees.

"We've gotten a few calls," said Jody Thompson, assistant superintendent. "Our plan is ready to roll."

Retired secretaries will be brought in to help register students if the flood in Fargo or in other area communities prompts massive evacuees.

"It's an opportunity for us to pay back communities that supported our students in 1997," Thompson said.

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The Grand Forks (N.D.) Herald and The Forum are both owned by Forum Communications Co.

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