March 26th, 2009
I woke up this morning stoked to be able to help my fellow people in Fargo. I booked a reservation for a rental car at noon. I always rent from Enterprise. But they have all new people at the branch I use, so I had to go through a lot of crap before I could get on the road. I took off about two and a half hours late.
En route to Fargo, I updated my Facebook status a couple of times via Facebook for mobile. Not sure why. Maybe I just wanted everyone to be sure I wasn’t gonna flake out. I got to Fargo and wasn’t sure where to go or what to do. I made a few calls to get a hold of friends in the area. I found out there were two major areas of production as far as sandbagging is concerned. One at First Assembly of God Church in south Fargo, and on the north end at FargoDome. I wasn’t quite ready for tossing around sandbags quite yet, particularly if I was gonna be right in the middle of the flood waters, building sandbag walls around homes. I still needed a pair of boots for the occasion. I went to Scheel’s Sporting Goods, and as it turns out, they were waiting for me. Not me specifically, but flood volunteers. We were the only reason they were open. In fact, the sign on the door read, “Open for flood volunteers only.” That was me. So I marched in.
A pleasant blonde girl with a headset greeted me the second I stepped through the door. I told her I just drove here from the Twin Cities to help sandbag and needed some gear. Without even another word, she told me to take the escalator up to the second level and take a right, then another right and go past the something-or-others to hunting and fishing footwear. She read my mind. That girl was incredible. I didn’t even tell her I needed boots. She said when I come back down, she can set me up with anything else I need too, gesturing sweepingly toward a line of bins along the floor filled with face masks, gloves, hats and wool socks.
After a quick stop at Target for some camera batteries, I was on my way to FargoDome to help fill sandbags. As an aside, Fargo is NOT a city that’s very wired. I couldn’t get cell phone service anywhere in the north part of the city. I got no service anywhere within 500 feet of the Dome. Frustrating to me since I made plans to meet a friend there. So I had to give up my sweet parking space and leave and go somewhere I could get cell phone service to give her a call. I told her where to find me when she got there, and went back, put on my work gloves, grabbed a shovel and started filling bags.
FargoDome – where all the magic happens
Sandbagging at FargoDome
I thought FargoDome was what was referred to as “Sandbag Central.” Turns out I was wrong. When my friend arrived at the Dome, she told me they needed more help at Sandbag Central, which I found out was a huge indoor warehouse space with a semi-automated assembly line with hi-tech machinery and gadgets built solely for this purpose. Who knew that sandbagging is an entire industry?
A conveyor belt dumps sand into this machine. The people around it fill sandbags, tie them with metal twist ties, throw them onto pallets and load them onto trucks to be brought to dike-building locations throughout the city.
I filled sandbags with some nice folks at Sandbag Central after being bussed from the Dome. Buses run every half hour. During the night (24/7, by the way) buses run between the Dome and Sandbag Central. During the day they had additional buses running from FargoDome to dike-building sites. My day ended around 12:30 a.m. I caught a bus back to the Dome where I was parked and headed to a friend’s house to get some sleep.