Fargo students forgo class to help out flood prep

Associated Press

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Hundreds of high school students pitched in Friday to place 100,000 sandbags around Fargo and help protect homes against Red River flooding.

The nearly-annual sandbag party began in 2009 when the city fought the first of three straight major floods. Students placed 700,000 sandbags in less than two days during the last flood in 2011, but officials and residents alike hope not nearly as many are needed this year.

The 100,000 sandbags were slated for more than 50 houses throughout the city Friday.

About 40 students, mostly from Fargo North, laughed and sang as they tossed sandbags outside the home where Glenda Bro and her husband, a Fargo physician, have lived for 32 years. Bro said it was a relief to have the sandbagging help, which she called "organized and calm." The singing helped.

"That's kind of contagious," Bro said. "Fear is contagious, and so is a happy spirit."

The city has reason to be optimistic.

The latest forecast calls for the Red River to reach a water level between 38 and 40 feet. Although the river begins to spill its banks at 18 feet, few structures are threatened until the water level reaches into the low 40s, thanks primarily to increased flood protection efforts in recent years.

The river measured about 21 feet Friday morning and an updated forecast was expected later in the day.

Fargo North student Tristin Schoenwald, 16, said most students had wanted to start sandbagging Thursday, but weren't complaining about a lower river crest prediction.

"We're happy to help," he said. "The community has always been there for us. It's nice to return the favor."

One 13-year-old sandbagger, Brooke Peterson, is home-schooled student whose friend lives in the neighborhood.

"It's great to help. I love it," she said. "It's a great workout and I'm getting fresh air."

The students got out of class on what's expected to be the first 50-degree day of the year in Fargo. Mayor Dennis Walaker said he was expecting them to have a good time.

"I want to get out there and have a good time, too," he said.

City worker Jim Mohr, who directed sandbag placement behind the Bro home, said the students were extremely coachable.

"They get it down pretty quickly," Mohr said. "It's great to have them."

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Follow Dave Kolpack on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/davekolpackap .

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