The Sandbag Chronicles, Day 2

The people of Fargo are incredible. And not just Fargo.

A young couple who had some vacation time came here to help, giving up their vacation.

A nomadic drifter from Virginia showed up with a backpack full of gear and lent a hand. He thought he’d just pitch a tent and crash for a few days. Obviously, he’s never been here before. Silly, silly man.

Kids as young as elementary school have been helping us grown-ups by feverishly filling sandbags at the designated locales, away from dangerous flood zones.

High school kids have been busy, wildly texting classmates and friends: “mt me @ sbag cent,” or “help needed by mik field,” or otherwise calling on each other to get help where it’s needed.

And college students…wow! This would’ve been a seriously small-time operation if not for the countless hours of work put in by students, particularly from NDSU. It was heartwarming to see NDSU students make up about half of the total volunteers at every location, their smiles and enthusiasm a shining example to everyone.

sandbag central first
Spent a few hours at Sandbag Central again today filling bags. They shut down all volunteer operations at FargoDome and at Sandbag Central at 6:00 p.m. tonight, at which time the National Guard came in and took over. We were told there were enough sandbags, and they just needed to be distributed accordingly. All dikes were built, they said, and all the sandbags they needed to ship out were for emergency use and for contingency dikes. As of this writing, the water was at a record 40.78 feet, some 22.78 feet ABOVE flood stage. Dikes in most areas are built to around 44 or 45 feet. The river is expected to crest tomorrow (Saturday, March 28) at 43 feet.

FargoDome cleared out
FargoDome cleared out in the late afternoon after the National Guard took over all city-wide flood control efforts

What has me concerned, honestly, is twofold. First, sure the crest is expected tomorrow, but the waters aren’t expected to recede until as late as Wednesday. That keeps the pressure on the dikes for an extended period of time, meaning they may need further reinforcement to hold until then. Second, and most importantly, there’s still a half foot of snow on the ground and heavy rains predicted for Monday.


After I left Sandbag Central, I headed to my friend’s house to decide what to do next. I wasn’t sure the Guard had anything more for all of the volunteers to do or not. It seemed all there was to do had been done.

That lasted about a half hour.

A phone call later and I found out a “Code Red” had been called in the neighborhood where I was staying. A few blocks away, a few homes near the river were in need of volunteers to help with some contingency sandbagging.

Chain Gang
The chain gang loading up homeowners’ garages with a backup arsenal of sandbags

The City was encouraging volunteers to walk to neighborhood locations to keep traffic free and clear, so we started walking toward the Code Red area. A Fargo resident in a large pickup truck was driving by and told us to jump in the back and he’d take us there, as that’s where he was going as well.

We arrived to find a pile of sand in the middle of a cul de sac and people filling bags.

traffic pylons
Making good use of traffic pylons to fill sandbags. Brilliant.

We loaded sandbags onto tucks and hauled them to dike areas nearby, and loaded up nearby residents’ garages with extra sandbags. Here are some pics taken in Woodcrest.

backyard dikes
This dike is literally just a few feet away from the house.

Gazebo dike
This dike was touching the gazebo, which is attached to the house.

Deck view
The view over one resident’s deck, with flood waters just a few feet away.

money shot
The money shot. I was leaning up against the house when I shot this.

This has been a pretty emotional day, not to mention physically exhausting. And even though I’m potentially in harm’s way, there’s nowhere else I’d rather be right now than in Fargo.


4 responses to “The Sandbag Chronicles, Day 2

  1. Thank you Donovan. For helping, and for documenting this.

  2. Great work Donovan, reporting, pictures and most of all your willingness to help the people of Fargo. Keep it up.
    Steve Hart

  3. donovantwaddle

    Thank you both for visiting, reading and leaving a comment. I appreciate the traffic. Spread the news, send the link to others who may find this to be of interest, particularly those who wanted to come and help, but could not.

  4. Just found out that my dad was there that night, too! He came with a shovel, so was sent to the front of the line to fill the bags. A high school class mate and the sister of another high school class mate and her husband were also at that site. Thanks again for going up to Fargo to lend a hand!

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