Fargo flood meeting – 3/29

  • A dike failed at Fargo’s Oak Grove school (Story at Fargo Forum, registration required) . Crews had to fall back to a contingency dike. The city was able to “save” the sanitary sewer system in that section of the city, but the damage inside the school — four or five buildings involved — may be significant. This happened around 1:30 a.m. The school and homes in the area “are now lost to the flooding.”

    At a news conference, Mayor Dennis Walaker says “we are different here in the valley,” and says evacuations are not automatic and they will not give up neighborhoods. The CEO of the school, Bruce Messelt says one of the school’s dike patrols found the leakage in the school’s permanent flood walls. The wall was constructed after the 1997 flood and is built of steel. The water came from underground and not from the wall itself.

    (This shows why these seemingly small leaks are so worrisome to people here.)

    The buildings are below the river at this point and basements and the first floors are filled, including at a performing arts hall and a gym. “Our buildings can be rebuilt, our students can recover, but God’s faithfulness will never be questioned,” he said.

  • Here’s this hours river projection:


    (I’m trying to figure out a way of visually showing the changing projections)

  • The NoDak Naitonal Guard says it has 1,350 people in Fargo. 450 are deployed elsewhere in the state.
  • West Fargo students are heading to the Fargodome today for sandbagging, but they recommend other people call ahead to see if they’ll need any volunteers. 701-476-4000.

    They want to have 500,000 sandbags on hand just in case.

  • Rep. Earl Pomeroy tells the story of yesterday N. Dakota “Fighting Sioux” hockey game, in which New Hampshire tied the game with one-tenth of one second. “It ain’t over ’til it’s over,” he said, talking about residents who want to go back home because the water is coming down.

    “Thank you for that example,” Mayor Dennis Walaker of Fargo said sarcastically, obviously a hurting Fighting Sioux fan.

  • FEMA official says the presidential disaster declaration puts them into the lifesaving operations but the next phase involves “individual assistance.” Sheri Thomsen of the Red Cross said there are three shelters open. They’ve set up a Web site for people to let loved ones know where they are. Look for the “Safe and Well” link here.
  • About 2,000 people “living independently with medical conditions,” people in nursing homes, and hospitals have been evacuated so far since the flood started.
  • The Guard’s Blackhawk helicopters are going to start dropping – 1 ton sandbags into the water to try to break the current from hitting the dikes.
  • Mayor Dennis Walaker urges people to use humor where possible. “You have to break up the stress.” Rep. Earl Pomeroy used last night’s loss by the University of North Dakota hockey team, when the University of New Hampshire tied the game with one-tenth of a second left (and won in overtime). “It ain’t over ’til it’s over,” he said to residents who want to go back to their homes now that the water has dropped slightly

    “Thank you for sharing that story,” Walaker said. Apparently he’s a fan of the rival (and Fargo-based) North Dakota State University.

  • (At following news conference) “We’ve had an awful lot of pressure to evacuate the city,” Walaker said. “And we’re not going to do that. This is where we make our stand. We’re not going to abandon our city. We’ve invested too much in this process to walk away now.” He rubs his eyes, and walks away from the microphone.

    Maybe he heard Dale Connelly’s Radio Heartland last night. The show started with Mavis Staples singing “We will not be moved.”

    // end

    My plan today: I’m heading, again, to Riverview Circle. I’ve been staying in Rothsay for the last few nights. Roger, who runs the Comfort Zone Inn, provides excellent Ole and Lena jokes. We need more Ole and Lena jokes right around now.

    But it takes awhile for me to get back in the area, and I usually have to stop and restock some of my provisions, and then it takes me a fair amount of time to quickly check how everyone’s doing, and write a post. So I apologize in advance that it may be a few hours until I get to post the next update, but let’s just assume no news is good news.

    (See all of News Cut’s flood dispatches here)