Kids Help Fargo Prepare for Flood

Flooding in Fargo, North Dakota, in April 2011

“It makes me feel like a hero.”

That’s what eighth-grader Shanya Hawari told Valley News Live, one of the local news organizations in Fargo, North Dakota, when asked how she felt about filling sandbags.

All up and down the Red River, kids in North Dakota have been helping their communities get ready for the river’s annual flooding.

And they’ve already helped fill more than one million sandbags, according to media reports.

“When you get everybody to help, it’s a lot easier than having a couple of people here,” said Jake Pfaff, a sixth-grader from Wahpeton, North Dakota, in an interview with Fargo TV station WDAY.

Forecasters predict that this year’s flooding might begin as soon as this week.

But folks in Fargo, Wahpeton and other riverside communities didn’t wait to get ready.

They began filling sandbags two or three weeks ago.

And local kids played a big role.

All three of Fargo’s middle schools got involved in the volunteer sandbagging operation.

And Wahpeton’s Circle of Nations School got involved as well.

“If you’re going to miss school, why not help your community,” Fargo 8th grader Logan Macziewski told Valley News Live.  “These sandbags are going to help someone.”

In years past, the floods have come earlier.

But this year, a cold spring has helped delay them, according to the Weather Channel.

On Sunday, a spring blizzard moved into the Dakotas, dumping as much as a foot of snow in some places.

Eventually, that snow will melt.

And all that water will wind up in the Red and other rivers.

“It’s tough to have that constant battle (with flooding) every year,” said Joel Livingood, a country club manager from Oxbow, North Dakota, in an interview with the New York Times.

Some day, that annual battle might become a thing of the past.

According to the Times, plans are in the works for a $1.8 billion flood-control system in the Fargo area.

That system would reportedly diverted the rising water into manmade channels, instead of allowing it to spill into the city.

(A channel is basically a ditch.)

More than 14 miles of permanent levees have already been built in Fargo, according to Times reporter John Eligon – which means more neighborhoods are now protected.

(Levees are huge wall-like structures that are built along rivers to keep the rivers from overflowing.)

But unfortunately, not everyone has that protection.

So sandbagging remains an annual spring ritual along the Red River.

Last week, a group of truckers thanked the Fargo kids for their volunteer work by buying them lunch — $800 worth of pizza!

“It felt right, with all the kids coming out” said Dean Mertz, the general manager of a Fargo trucking company, in an interview with WDAY.

“It’s really nice of them,” Shanya told Valley News Live reporter Brandon Clark.

Mertz told reporters he thinks what the kids did is really nice, too.

He also thinks it was great that they were allowed to volunteer “to save the city,” as Shanya told Clark.

“It’s not just about making sandbags,” Mertz told WDAY.  “It’s about letting these kids contribute.”