Going door to doorby Jessica Mador, Minnesota Public Radio
As the Red River drops, Fargo residents are working to inspect and maintain the city's fragile levee system, which must remain in place until the high waters recede.
Officials are also beginning to take stock of the damage and needs outside the city limits. Cass County sheriff's deputies visited some rural areas Sunday, offering help to residents stranded behind the flood waters.
St. Paul, Minn. — Water inundated many areas outside Fargo city limits, closing roads and leaving people stranded in their flooded homes. Cass County Sheriff's Deputy Dick Garvey led a team of officers to the small community of Harwood, north of Fargo.
The goal of the house to house searches was to make contact with isolated residents and give them support.
"If we put two teams on each side of the street wherever we are dropping, you guys can leapfrog each other, every other house and that way you can have one team watching the other team," said Garvey to the other deputies. "If somebody is passing a team as you are walking down the street, and it looks like somebody has got some question marks on their face, stop and chat with them and help them out," he told the bus full of deputies.
The aim, he said, was to distribute emergency supplies and phone numbers, but the searches will also help the county. The information they collect will give county officials a better sense of where the most urgent needs are.
Sheriff's Deputy Jill Ulrich said it was critical to reach people now, because it could take a while for the water to go down.
"Our instructions are to go out door to door and get all the contact information from the people - find out how many people are in the house, what their ages are what immediate needs they'll need, because they could be stuck for seven days, and if they are low on food or diapers we need to make lists and get that information out so that they can be helped," she said.
"Also, if they need to be evacuated, we are supposed to get that information sent out right away so that we can get them out of their immediately."
For this trip through rural parts of the county, the sheriff's deputies are riding in a National Guard truck with high clearance. Water fills the ditches along both sides of the two-lane highway. As far as the eye can see, frozen water covers the fields, spilling into the roadway in spots.
The officers reach a suburban development called North River. It's a small cluster of two-story homes, surrounded by pine trees and flooded fields. The yards are all underwater and each house is ringed by a small sandbag levee. In this area, the water looks to be anywhere from a foot to several feet deep.
Wearing rubber waders and yellow reflective vests, the deputies break into teams of two, making their way up the middle of the flooded street. Ulrich and her partner call across the water to a woman standing on her front stoop.
"Are there any supplies or anything that you are going to need over the next week or so,?" she asked her. "Anything that we can help you out with?"
The woman said no, she thinks they have everything they need. Ulrich gets her name and the names and ages of her kids. They give her a phone number to call in case of emergency.
"If you plan on leaving, can you call that number and let them know that you are going to evacuate?," she told her, "just so we have an update of who is still here and who is gone. Thank you, we appreciate it."
The county plans to create a map using information the deputies collect this week. Deputy Garvey said the flood maps will make it easier to distribute emergency supplies, if the levees break and flood waters rise.
"That's valuable information to us, if we have a problem down here. The people who are here, we are trying to assist them in any way that we can, that's one less thing for them to be concerned or worried about," he said, "that is basically what we are doing, is trying to figure out who is where, everybody's safe and are your needs being met."
On the street in front of his flooded yard, Charles Renville said most people out here enjoy the isolation of the neighborhood, but he's happy to see the county.
"We like to be out a little bit away from the city, by ourselves a little bit, but the sheriff's department has been pretty good, they've been coming out. I've seen them out on the roads a lot and it's cool. It's nice that they're coming out to check on us," he said.
So far, Renville said his levee is holding. He and his family have no plans to evacuate.
- Morning Edition, 03/30/2009, 7:25 a.m.