ARLINGTON, Va. – Almost 500 Army and Air National Guard members from two states were called out over the weekend to help stem the flow of floodwaters from the Red River in the Fargo, N.D. area.
North Dakota and Minnesota have each called up about 200 Soldiers and Airmen to provide traffic control points, fill sandbags and build temporary levees in the wake of rains that fell March 22, adding to the already high water levels as a result of melting snow in the area.
"We need this help," said Sheriff Paul Laney of Cass County, N.D. "We need to stay calm, we need to stay cool, but we need to get serious and get this done."
The number of Guardmembers called up in North Dakota is expected to grow to 500 by tomorrow, according to a release from the North Dakota National Guard Public Affairs Office.
The National Weather Service reported that the river was over its banks in Fargo on March 22 at a level of about 21 feet and is expected to crest between 39 feet and 41 feet later this week. Many of the major tributaries to the river have also overflowed causing flooding in other areas of the Red River Valley.
In some areas ground transportation is limited or non-existent, according to local reports.
In response to a request from Grant County emergency services officials on March 22, the North Dakota Army Guard used a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter to rescue two families near Carson and New Leipzig, N.D., after floodwaters had surrounded their farmsteads, making it impossible for emergency crews to reach them by ground.
“We’ve had guys that are 90 years old and have never seen it (water) come up this hard, this fast,” said Linton Sheriff Gary Sanders. “We had rain a month ago that froze up all the culverts and held everything back.”
Large ice jams have also backed up many tributaries and other waterways. “There were some ice jams west of Linton,” said Sanders. “We got a tracked excavator with a 60-foot boom and broke up the ice jams at the bridges. The water dropped for an hour, then rose again. It’s just coming up and coming up.”
Meanwhile, in Moorhead, Minn., which sits on the opposite bank of the Red River from Fargo, about 200 Minnesota Guardmembers are working to raise levee heights, according to National Guard Bureau reports.
Clay County, Minn., reports numerous secondary roads with water over the roadways.
The Guard’s efforts are not going unnoticed in either state. “When something like this happens, you’re grateful for any help you can get,” said Sanders. “Having access to the Guard and the resources they provide is a good thing.”