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Moorhead sandbag factory up and running

Clean and easy. The two words sum up the start of Moorhead's sandbag factory on Monday. Workers said the automated system, which drops sand into bags and gets it out the door in about 30 seconds, was easy to master. And because everything runs on...

Tim Schmidt
Tim Schmidt flattens a lump of sand Monday during the first day of sandbagging operations in Moorhead. The sand travels at a rate of 400 feet per minute.

Clean and easy.

The two words sum up the start of Moorhead's sandbag factory on Monday.

Workers said the automated system, which drops sand into bags and gets it out the door in about 30 seconds, was easy to master.

And because everything runs on electricity, there was no smoke or fumes to foul the air in the rented building.

"Most of the stuff is pretty simple," said Chad Martin, Moorhead's director of operations.

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Only one of two "spider" machines was operating Monday, but Martin said the second will start up by Wednesday at the latest.

One machine was sitting idle because more conveyers needed to be set up to get sandbags to trucks waiting outside, said Martin, who added that together the two spider machines can crank out 9,000 bags an hour with 50 workers manning each machine.

Moorhead is paying people to fill sandbags, but it is relying on volunteers to put those bags onto pallets for storage and to make it easier to transfer the bags onto trucks when sandbags are moved into neighborhoods.

Volunteer workers will be needed starting at 8 this morning at 2419 12th Ave. S., where sandbags will be stored on pallets.

The site is only large enough to store about half of the 1 million bags the city plans to fill. Bags that can't be stored at the pallet site will be stored on trucks until they are needed in neighborhoods.

The city wants 100 volunteers on hand at all times from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to put sandbags on pallets.

If it appears volunteer numbers will not be sufficient, the city has a back-up plan to also hire workers for that phase of the flood effort, said City Council member Mark Hintermeyer.

He said hiring workers to fill sandbags makes the flood-fighting effort "less taxing on our city overall" and less disruptive to the entire community.

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Faith Sargent, 21, of Dilworth, was one of those working at the spider machine Monday in Moorhead.

She alternated between filling sandbags and stapling them closed and said neither task was difficult.

Sargent said she was happy to be making the about $9 an hour workers will receive. She plans to return for as long as she's needed.

"Today I'm working eight (hours), but tomorrow it's 12," she said.

Moorhead cranks up its sandbagging with more automated steps

1. Sand rolls in: Tim Schmidt flattens a lump of sand Monday during the first day of sandbagging operations in Moorhead. The sand travels at a rate of 400 feet per minute.

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2. Bags are filled: Workers hold sandbags under chutes around the "spider" machines. The city says it can fill about 9,000 bags per hour at full capacity.

3. Stapling it shut: Ron Chaney, left, and Roy Toran staple sandbags Monday during Moorhead's first day of sandbagging operations.

4. Straight to trucks: Sandbags pour off a conveyor belt outside the sandbag factory. A truck can be filled with sandbags in about six minutes.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555

I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com
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