Perspectives on the Red River Flooding

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Time to update the flood definitions

[MPR Midmorning: How to plan for flood] Isn't it time to update what constitutes a "100 year flood?" If I were going to build in a flood plain, I would want to know what the highest flood level ever was. Don't insurance companies issue flood insurance depending upon what the "100 year flood" level is?

Kathy Mrozek
Maple Grove, Minn.
Monday, March 30, 2009

Ditch surfing and sandbagging in Moorhead

After listening all week to reports of the flood preparations going on in Fargo and Moorhead, and with the National Weather Service having just increased their flood estimates to 43 feet for the coming weekend, I decided on Thursday afternoon to make my way up to Moorhead to lend a helping hand in the sandbagging effort. Hoping I would be more of a help than a hindrance, I lined up a babysitter, took Friday off work, and packed my bags with wool socks, long underwear, a few pairs of gloves, my sturdiest winter boots, and a nice warm blanket in case I had to sleep in my car. I filled a grocery bag with bottled water and snacks, and ventured out into the night.

At about 11 p.m., I found myself 20 miles east of Moorhead on increasingly icy and snow-covered roads. I pulled into a gas station and called the volunteer center to check in and see where to go. By the reports on the radio, it sounded like they'd be filling sandbags late into the night. I was informed, however, that they were trying to cut down on traffic in the city to allow the sand trucks to get through and that unless I could make it there on foot, I should find a place to sleep for the night and check back in the morning. Well luckily for me I had packed my blanket, so I set off to find a remote parking lot where I could hunker down for the night without being disturbed, run over, or flooded in. As it turns out when you're not familiar with an area, those places aren't necessarily the easiest to find. I meandered through the back highways for about an hour, finally gave up hope of finding a perfect spot, and pulled into a gas station that was closed for the night. Somehow, though, it didn't feel like quite the right spot to nestle in. The lights were too bright, so I decided to cross the road and drive a bit further down the road, maybe to a grocery store parking lot instead. I headed back toward the street, and suddenly, the front end of my car sunk. The blowing snow had drifted over the ditch, and I, at nearly midnight, mistook the flat expanse for snow-covered pavement. Well, a girl's gotta sleep somewhere, right? I leaned my seat back, grabbed my blanket, and just then, a truck and trailer pulled around the corner. Oh boy.

The truck stops, and a guy gets out with a big grin on his face. "Need some help there?" I said yes and apologized profusely for being such a girl. I drove the whole way up here watching out for black ice, driving slowly, both hands on the wheel, and here I ended up in a gas station ditch. I came up here to help save people, and well, here I am. "Well, you gave my friend and I a much needed laugh, we just finished evacuating his apartment. Let me go drop off the trailer and I'll be right back to get you out. By the way, you're probably about the 50th person I've seen in that ditch this winter, so don't feel bad." Somewhat relieved, and not feeling quite so stupid, I got back in the car to stay warm. Sure enough, he came back around the corner about 5 minutes later, hooked up a tow rope, and pulled me right out. I thanked him and asked if he knew any hotels nearby as I was exhausted and had given up hope of finding the perfect parking lot to sleep in. The nearest one he knew of was about 20 miles east. He looked me over, asked if I really needed a place to stay, and called his wife to see if she minded if he brought a strange woman home with him. As it turns out, they had made up the spare bed in case they needed to take in any evacuees. I followed him home, said hello to his wife, and headed off to bed.

I woke up at 7 a.m. the next morning with a curious little face peering at me, demanding to know my name. As it turns out, 3 year-old Emma had two new princess dresses that she was dying to show off to somebody new. When she was satisfied that I was, indeed, delighted to see the dresses and that I knew who Snow White was, she invited me to have cinnamon toast with her and her 1 year-old sister, Sidney. The girls were dressed in matching pink striped shirts, and while Emma munched on the marshmallows from her Lucky Charms (and dumped the yucky cereal bits onto her sister's breakfast tray), she began her interrogation in earnest. Who was I? Why was I here? Why did I drive my car into a ditch? Was I somebody's mommy? (The answers to the last two didn't match up quite right...apparently mommies don't drive their cars into ditches.) Did I live in a big house? Could she keep me for another night? Another week? Was I going to their babysitter's house with them? Did I have a princess tent? If I moved into their spare bedroom, where would grandma and grandpa sleep when they came to visit? Would I like a blue marshmallow or a yellow one?

Finally, we all finished our cereal and cinnamon toast, brushed our teeth, and Emma's parents gave me their phone numbers and invited me to come back if I needed a place to stay for another night. I thanked them for putting me up for the night, they thanked me for driving all the way up to help with the sandbagging effort, and we all pulled on our boots and headed out into the cold morning.

After stopping to grab some coffee and extra work gloves I was ready to get to work. I found my way over the volunteer center at Moorhead State University. There were buses parked alongside the building, which I presumed were the shuttle buses bringing people in to help fill sandbags from around the city. I checked in, and was told to grab some water and snacks and hop on the bus. When I sat down on the bus, we had a handful of college students and a few older folks, and we were told we were going to be sent over to the tech school to fill sandbags as soon as we filled the bus halfway. A few minutes later, a call came in on the bus driver's walkie-talkie, and plans changed. We were going to fill the entire bus, and then we were going to sandbag the post office. The drive over to the post office was an eye-opener. We were able to see water creeping up into fields and yards, and on one street the water level was up to the foundations of the houses.

The post office itself was a couple of blocks away from those houses, and while I couldn't imagine the water coming that much farther out if it rose as much as anticipated it'd be 6-12" deep in water too. Even if the water didn't rise that much, the storm drain in the parking lot was another possible hazard. The post office and its parking lot comprised a full half of a city block, and we needed sandbags stacked 3-4 bags high all the way around, in a pyramid shape. Three bags on the bottom, two bags the next row, and one bag on top. The low spots started out with four bags on the bottom. The storm drain needed a pile about three feet high, which really was like building a pyramid. We had a semi truck full of pallets of sandbags, a couple of forklifts, and a long line of people who, for the most part, had no idea what to do. The police assigned one of the college kids to be our foreman, and left us to our own devices. It took us awhile to get ourselves organized and get into a rhythm, but once we did, there was no stopping us.

Each sandbag weighs 35-50 pounds and the easiest way to move them is to stand in 2 staggered rows, facing each other, taking the bag from the person facing you one side and passing it to the person facing you on the other side. If the rows are tight enough, you hardly touch the bags. But the more you stretch out (to get further from the pallet), the harder it gets. Which means that if anybody steps out to take a break, the rows get stretched a couple inches farther apart, and the process gets exponentially harder on everyone. You don't want to be on either end of the line, because that means you're either bending over to pick up the bags off the pallet, or bending over to toss them onto the ground in just the right way. So, even though our arms were all burning and the heavier bags almost knocked us over, we all kept right on working. Men, women, teens, seniors, country folks, city slickers, from Minnesota, North Dakota, Canada, foreign exchange students, we all said "Uff-d a" and shouted "Big One!" when there was a heavy bag coming down the line, and breathed a sigh of relief when we got a minute's break while they brought in a new pallet. By 9:00 am, we were a well-oiled machine. By 11:00 am, we were exhausted. We finished the post office at noon, and boarded the bus to head back to the volunteer center for lunch.

When I stumbled back into the volunteer center, they had so many people there that they were actually turning folks away, and asking them to check back in later in the day. I grabbed a sandwich, headed out to my car, and pondered whether or not I'd be able to handle another trip to the sandbagging lines. I was so tired I could hardly keep my eyes open. I was too far gone for coffee to do me any good, so I crawled into my backseat, covered up with my blanket, and passed out.

I woke up in my backseat to the gentle roar of a snowplow making their way through the streets. I scrambled up into the front seat and headed over to Burger King for some food and caffeine. I guzzled down a diet coke, checked the latest news on my phone, and decided that I couldn't turn around and go home after only 4 hours of work. I could hardly lift my arms and my legs were a little wobbly, but I trekked back into the volunteer center, checked in, and sat down to wait for a bus to take me out for another shift of sandbagging.

The sheriff came through after a bit and thanked us all for sitting and waiting patiently. He told us that, while there were some individual residences that probably needed some help, there weren't any projects big enough that they warranted a full bus load of volunteers, so we were all going to hang out and wait until they got an emergency call that required a whole bunch of help. I figured that sounded alright, since I was pretty wiped out anyways, and settled in to rest for a bit. A few minutes later, an older gentleman made his way down the hall with this story: "You didn't hear this from me (as he covered up his city-official patch and nametag), but there's a neighborhood up north of here that could use some help. They're sandbagging a Catholic Church right along the river, and right down the block they're filling and loading more sandbags for residents in the area. You'd need to drive yourself, if you want to go help."

Everybody that he talked to smiled and nodded politely, but nobody got up and went. Apparently they were all content waiting for the bus. He made his way down to where I was sitting and told his story to the guy sitting next to me, who also smiled and nodded and sat there. So, of course, I stood up and asked for the address of the church. He handed me a map, showed me where to go, and thanked me. I turned to the guy sitting next to me (who had politely smiled and nodded along with everyone else) and asked, "You coming with?" He looked completely shocked, but hesitantly agreed to come with, provided that I drive there. I said of course, I was already driving there anyways, and I could definitely squeeze him into my messy little Kia. So, off we went.

We introduced ourselves on the way there. He was in his early 40's, married, had an 8 year-old daughter, and lived in Hutchinson, Minn. He had felt it was his duty as a Christian to come up and help. He had gotten into town earlier in the day, and hadn't gotten out to help anywhere yet. As we neared the address we were heading for, we suddenly encountered police roadblocks in every direction. I pulled over, glanced at the map, and declared that we were close enough to walk. My co-adventurer didn't look so sure, but agreed to come with me, yet again. I don't think he figured he had much choice, at this point. So, we ventured forth on foot into the streets. Within a couple of blocks, we saw why the roadblocks had been set up. The roads were completely flooded. But the sidewalks were pretty dry, so we kept going. Sometimes we had to backtrack and detour by a block, and sometimes we (okay, I) jumped into puddles at least a foot deep (he detoured further when he saw me plop into so me really deep ones). As it turns out, the church was a bit farther away than we first anticipated. We stopped to offer help to a few families that were loading their belongings into moving vans, but nobody wanted our help. Finally, we found the church, and jumped into the sandbag line.

I don't know how far the river normally was from the church, but at this point, it was creeping right up to the sandbag dike on the west side. Luckily, they had an amazing turnout, despite the roadblocks, and they finished up about a half hour after we got there. As we stopped to contemplate our wet feet and frozen pant legs, somebody shouted out that they needed help filling sandbags a couple blocks down the road, so off we went.

Down the road at a relatively dry intersection a load of sand had been dropped off earlier in the day, along with a few hundred empty sandbags. The residents of the neighborhood had set up a sandbagging station. The way it worked was this: a ladder was laid across a couple of folding chairs, with traffic cones set inside the rungs of the ladder, upside down, to funnel the sand into the bags. For the most part, moms and dads were shoveling sand into cones, the kids were holding the bags under the cones, and the rest of us stood behind the kids in our well-practiced sandbag lines, taking the full bags and loading them into pickup trucks that were pulling up to bring sandbags home to pile up around their houses. We were in a very nice neighborhood, the houses were new and they were only a couple of blocks from the river. The roads were already full of water, and I couldn't believe how few of the homes had sandbag dikes around them. They must have been just above the original prediction of 41 feet, even though they were so close to the river. By the sounds of it, the water in the streets was actually from storm sewers backing up, rather than from the river rising up this far. But regardless of where the water was coming from, it was a very cold, slushy, muddy, wet mess.

One of the families that had been sandbagging at the church made their way down the street with us, a man and his three teenaged kids. They lived in the area, but their house was pretty well sandbagged already, so they were out helping their neighbors. The youngest girl couldn't have been more than 14, about 5 feet tall and maybe 100 pounds, and she stood next to me in line and passed sandbags nonstop, apologizing for not going fast enough when she was starting to get tired. I never got around to asking their names, but they offered us both dinner and a place to stay if we needed it. I was very tempted to stay and help for another day, but doubted how much I would actually be able to do when I woke up the next morning. I finally called it quits around 6:30 pm, rounded up my partner, and the two of us made our way back through the slushy streets to the car.

We went back to the volunteer center and sat down to have dinner, a bowl of donated Tater Tot hotdish and some homemade cookies. The place had cleared out quite a bit, and while we ate they were loading up a bus, they'd had an emergency call to head out and patch up a dike. They had evacuated the college dorms while we were gone, and as we listened to the radio we heard people calling into the radio station with offers of available beds for evacuees and volunteers.

It was heartwarming to see the way everyone was pulling together and pitching in however they could to help the relief effort, and to support the volunteers coming in from all over the state. I had been a little nervous going up there alone, I wasn't sure where I'd fit in. But once I got there, I felt so welcomed and appreciated by everyone I met that I wound up not wanting to leave. So, with very cold, wet feet, and a very warm heart, feeling both exhausted and invigorated, I grabbed another cup of coffee, hopped into my little blue car, peeled off my socks, cranked up the heater, and headed back home to my little girl.

Jen Morgan
Ramsey, Minn.
Sunday, March 29, 2009

Media misses the real stories about people

There is more to the flood story than the water level.

I just heard a reporter on-the-scene in flooded and evacuated south Moorhead tell about watermarks on fences in the abandoned back yards. I want to hear, and I think others should hear more insight than just water levels.

I can suggest some examples. For instance, one story is about not the thousands of volunteers, it is about the tens of thousands of volunteers who filled sandbags and built dikes. I worked in a bucket-brigade line on Monday that was 300 people long, and there were similar efforts in at least a dozen other neighborhoods at that same time. That was just the afternoon shift in the round-the-clock effort.

I drove one hour, but others drove two or three hours to help these cities full of people they have never met. People went day after day, missing work and staying up late. The city of Detroit Lakes organized - and filled - buses of volunteers every evening, Monday - Thursday. Thursday's buses were turned back as rising water ended all non-essential travel in the cities.

Point out that the sandbags weigh 15-40 lbs each, more than twice as heavy as a gallon of milk. The dike we built on Monday used 50,000 sandbags, filled and stacked by volunteers. Tell listeners that volunteers worked in constant rain and temps in the 40s on Monday, in a blizzard on Wednesday (people in the bucket brigade line wore ski goggles), and below freezing temps and snow on Thursday.

Point out the wide variations between homeowner attitudes. One home we protected had a constant buffet line of food, pop, and water, and invited us in to use the bathroom. It opened up the garage and put out folding chairs for shelter from the blizzard. In stark contrast, another home appeared locked up the way some people try to scare away trick-or-treaters, until a woman who turned out to be the obvious homeowner barked at a college student standing near her front door. The student volunteer was trying to get out of the blizzard wind and snow to make a cell phone call. The student was having trouble because the snow piled up on the phone so quickly that she was afraid of how wet the phone was getting. The homeowner was mad that the student was at her front door.

Talk about the strangely tolerant and optimistic attitude of the people in the area. The residents might actually benefit from expressing some anger at what is happening. Tell us which neighborhoods have been built since the 1997 flood, and whether they were built to contend with another flood. The water level is visible at a glance. Tell us more about the people fighting the flood and how they are fighting. Tell us what they are thinking. Thanks.

Jeff Stowman
Detroit Lakes, Minn.
Sunday, March 29, 2009

Long-distance support from those in drought

My hooray and hoorah for you guys! You're hanging tough. I sure wish you could build an instant pipe and send some of thast water to us! We're in a drought, the Pecos is nearly dried up. We haven't had any winter to speak of, little or no rain/snow. We could sure use it - and we'd be glad to take it off your hands!

Ron Waite
Carlsbad, N.M.
Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sandbagging in Fargo: One volunteer's experience

Earlier this week, I was a volunteer in Fargo, North Dakota, helping to sandbag to hold the Red River in check. Tuesday night I heard the plea for volunteers so Wednesday I packed my bags and headed north on Highway 52 from Rochester to the Cities, and then on 94 to Fargo. The Fargo effort was well organized for the most part. An hour out of Fargo I called the city�s flood hotline and drove to a local church to register. From there I was bussed to another church where I was shipped out to various sites throughout the city building dikes from sandbags.

The locals were very grateful and helpful, and they told us what to expect from the experience. But there were a few lessons I learned sandbagging that organizers didn't tell you.

Lesson # 1 when you sandbag get lots of people: then you can form a zig-zag line passing sandbags: it�s easier to toss bags across diagonally than to twist and turn while passing.

Lesson #2 be flexible: if you stand there like a statue, the sandbag will hit you like a car hits a brick wall. Ouch!

Lesson # 3 when passing sandbags try different techniques: use just your arms, or catch bags with a slight bend in your legs, then launch them on by straightening up. Switch places in line to use muscles differently.

Lesson #4 when there�s a break in the work, take it easy. It may be hours before you get another one. Ditto food and drink. When offered food and drink take advantage of it, whether you need it or not. The same is true when you see a port-a-potty or a bathroom. Who knows when you�ll get another chance?

It was a pretty intense effort as we struggled to raise the sand dikes. The weather service kept revising the estimates of river crest to 41 feet, 42, even 43 feet. That meant going back to the same dikes over and over to raise them higher. Muscles were screaming but nobody complained. The weather was brutally cold: we froze and so did our sandbags. Frozen sandbags make leaky dikes. We spent a lot of time breaking up freezing sandbags by smashing them on the streets over and over. At night, we slept with one ear open, to hear in case the dikes were breached and evacuation sirens went off. Where I slept at night, the water wouldn�t reach but sewers would back up if the dikes went. I felt guilty even sleeping: many locals had been working 20 hour days for a week.

Finally on Friday, after a feverish effort all the sandbags dikes were complete, and all the reserve sandbags were deployed in piles throughout the city. The volunteer effort was called off, and the National Guard came into monitor the dikes for leaks. Exhausted, I packed my bags and headed home across the bridge to Minnesota.

As I crossed the bridge, I could see the tops of pine trees sticking out of the water, almost submerged by the flood. I said a silent prayer for the city of Fargo as I climbed out of the river valley to head home.

Glen Bickford
Rochester, Minn.
Saturday, March 28, 2009

Concerned about possible sand shortages

I just talked to my brother who lives on the 2900 block of South Rivershore Drive in Moorhead. His house is just a few hundred feet north of I94, right on the river. [MPR Red River Floods of 2009: Obama declares emergency, evacuations begin]

He indicated that they are having difficulty getting sand for sandbags in South Moorhead. He should be okay if the river only goes to 41 feet, but if it hits 42+ feet, as predicted, is he very concerned he will lose the house.

I guess I don't understand the shortage of sand in Moorhead, based on the pictures on the news showing all of the sandbags.

Robert Nobis
Nobis, Ariz.
Friday, March 27, 2009

Concerned with water volume

I am so sad that the Red River is flooding again, homes are again threatened, and people evacuated. [MPR Red River Floods of 2009: Alone with the Red River] I hope that the sandbags will hold and are high enough.

In the original story, Amber Nord says, "It seems like the water is coming down faster and more all the time." I wonder if there have been any changes to the land in the last 50 years that would cause the water to come faster and to increase in its volume.

If so, maybe it is time to consider erasing as many changes as possible to slow the water and reduce its future flooding could be reduced. Flood prevention and recovery are so expensive in terms of money, time, and energy (physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual).

Unfortunately, my schedule does not permit me to help now....if there is flood damage, I hope to help with the recovery during Memorial I did in 97.

Jim Oberg
Owatonna, Minn.
Friday, March 27, 2009

Call for coverage of animal evacuations

In media coverage of the Red River Valley [MPR Red River Floods of 2009: MPR Flood updates] I have not heard anything about what those with pets or livestock can do to prepare for their evacuation. As we learned the hard way from Katrina, preparedness in pet and livestock safety is critical in times of emergencies like this one.

Kelly Eggers
Excelsior, Minn.
Friday, March 27, 2009

Alternate, sustainable flood solutions

Raising the dikes may be the only immediate solution but doesn't this simply increase the flood crest downstream? In Winnipeg there is a floodway that diverts a part of the Red River around the city when the level increases so that the crest height is reduced. This seems like a more balanced and sustainable approach.

Tim White
Grand Marais, Minn.
Friday, March 27, 2009

Is this a systemic issue, or man-made?

One area the media has not covered is whether or not this is a systemic problem versis a man-made one. What I mean has the flooding in the area is because the area historically is a giant flood plain, or if the farms in the area tile fields in order to have more production. If the latter is the case who paid for the drainage?

Bruce Johnson
Stacy, Minn.
Friday, March 27, 2009

Explaining why Fargo is built on a river that floods

Thank you to all for good wishes and care. There are, however, as in most 'disaster areas' a number of reasons why these things happen:

* The Red River flows North into Hudson Bay and makes up the entire eastern border between North Dakota and Minnesota.

* The Red River Valley (of song fame - it's not the one in Texas) is relatively young (+/- 9.000 years ) It sits on what was a great glacial lake (sea, really) Lake Agassiz. The river has not had time to cut a deep channel for its flow.

* The land is flat here. F-L-A-T flat. Some years there is not a lot of snow. Sometimes the snow melts in stages. This year it was deep and did not.

* For the last 150 years (until we outlawed it) farmers in North Dakota have been putting drain culverts on their fields so the melt doesn't pool in "potholes" ponds and low areas. Virtually all of the melt has nowhere to go except the nearest river/creek/stream etc. All the tributaries ultimately join the Red.

* Fargo and some other communities have systems of dikes for their most low lying neighborhoods. Fargo is protected to 30 something feet. Fargo is growing like a weed. Half the people (+/-600,000 ) in ND live in the Red River Valley. 200,000 of them in the Fargo Moorhead metro area. 20,000 of those (mostly age 12 to 25) are sandbagging as I write. We need another 1,000,000 sandbags before Saturday.

I have a disability and can neither fill nor place sandbags. In '97 I cooked for several days straight and delivered big pots of hot soups to places where I knew there were many hungry volunteers. This year they won't let us bring food from home kitchens - only licensed restaurants, nursing homes etc. There's nothing for me to do except donate blood. If you can come please do.

Oh God, wish us luck - they've just raised the crest forecast to 43 feet. [MPR Red River Floods of 2009: Obama declares emergency, evacuations begin]

Still in Fargo on the fifth floor of The 400,

Lynn Gifford
Fargo, ND.
Thursday, March 26, 2009

Straining the definition of "volunteer"

[MPR Red River Floods of 2009: Fargo-Moorhead picks up the pace of flood preparation] Not only does this plan contradict the meaning of "volunteer", but this constitutes outright slavery!

How about if these municipalities get some foresight and construct flood canals around their cities the way Winnipeg did 40 years ago? Albeit this year's flood is potentially more disastrous than normal, but the Red River floods every year!

Cory Johnson
Minneapolis, Minn.
Thursday, March 26, 2009

Could machines haul ice out of the river?

Could some big machines haul ice out of the river upstream? [MPR Red River Floods of 2009: Dikes need to go up another foot in Fargo] It might lower the river level to truck the ice away and let it melt slowly after the crisis.

Scott Christensen
Minneapolis, Minn.
Thursday, March 26, 2009

Protecting assets...with planning and a party

I have an interesting story in regards to flooding in the Fargo/Moorehead/Red River area. [MPR Red River Floods of 2009: Protecting neighborhoods from their first Red River flood] I recently attended a Flood Insurance continuing education course for my insurance license. Our instructor had lived for many years in this area, and had one really neat story about her boss, an Insurance Specialist.

Every year around flood time, he would have a huge flood bbq party at his home to get ready for the inevitable fooding he experienced most every year. The party guests would load up on food and beverages, and move all of his furnishings from his lower living area to the second floor of the house. There were other preparations with plastic and other materials that the partiers would help with. The carpet would be brought upstairs as well. This guy somehow had his basement treated and reinforced to withstand water and mold issues. The neat part is that he would fill his basement with clean water, which would prevent the nasty flood water from entering the home, and the pressure of the outside flood water would be eqaulized because the basement was already full, thus no collapse! His furniture was always stored above that max flood level as well. When the flooding subsided, he would release amounts of that clean water in his home to the outside (he had some fancy drain system intstalled to do this), and his basement was maybe a little wet, but not ruined. By letting out small amounts of the water in intervals to match the outside water pressure on the house, no shifting of foundation or crumbling had ever taken place.

He would then have another party to move all the furniture back into the clean basement and wait until next year's flood to do it all over again. What ingenuity, and no flood claims, even though he had adequate insurance. Thought you'd like this story.

Laurie Howard
Bloomington, Minn.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Time to be floodsmart

I am continually shocked at the limited memory of flood-prone communities. [MPR Red River Floods of 2009: Protecting neighborhoods from their first Red River flood]

I am sympathetic towards the stress and strife that flooding can cause, but it is never a question of if a river will flood, but when a river will flood. Really �100 year floodplain� is a misnomer; it is not a flood that happens every 100 years, but a flood that has a 1% chance of occurring in any given year. A house built in the 100-year floodplain has a 25% chance of flooding during the course of a 30 year mortgage.

Levies, channeling, and other river system modifications only increase flood damage, giving less area for water to be stored naturally during high water. A levy may protect one person�s property, but it will just send the water down river all the faster to impact another person�s property.

Communities don�t need more permanent levies; they need to stop building in flood-prone areas; or stop being surprised when those area are full of water.

Vanessa Morrell
Apple Valley, Minn.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Encourage proactive prevention

Consider the other side of the question.

It would be very interesting to know if these Cities allowed development in flood prone areas since 1997. [MPR Red River Floods of 2009: Red River flood -- what's changed since 1997?] It is good that they are proactive in flood prevention, but if development continues in areas prone to flooding it does no good for the state and national governments to provide resources to fix a problem that will never have a solution.

Al Giesen
Minneapolis, Minn.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Volunteer ramp-up time could be improved

I responded to the call for volunteers yesterday. I was directed to the Fargodome. [MPR Red River Floods of 2009: Fargo-Moorhead picks up the pace of flood preparation] They were just not prepared for the number of volunteers that showed up and in fact seemed extremely disorganized. There were more people and resources on hand by mid-afternoon than there was management to use them. Once the sandbagging operations were moved inside it became pretty obvious that the management was overwhelmed.

Since the air was being circulated rather than exchanged with outside air the heat and diesel fumes built up. Eventually even the circulating fans turned off since they were on timers and the fumes built up to a point that some volunteers were leaving because they were getting ill. Which at least did not slow down the sandbag filling as the delivery of sand was not rapid enough to keep the available volunteers working more than 50% of the time.

I realize that it was the first day of operation of the facility. But I fear that the lack of preparation to efficiently use and care for the volunteers that heeded the call to help will hinder the flood effort significantly in the upcoming critical days. I am sure it was unintentional but I was also surprised to find that when I asked if there was anyplace that more volunteers were needed to fill sandbags I was not directed to the Moorhead sandbag filling operations.

I plan to return to volunteer in a few days when things are hopefully a bit more organized...and my fume induced headache is gone.

Dana Linscott
Alexandria, Minn.
Tuesday March 24, 2009

Adapting to the flood zone

I do feel for those who may be damaged by the flood. [MPR Red River Floods of 2009: Sandbagging operations shift into high gear] But when I heard that numerous houses had been built in area that previously flooded it does make me wonder... Who had amnesia at the time?

Since the Red River Valley is an area the floods frequently wouldn't it be better to figure out why? Isn't there some relationship to the flooding and the decrease of wetlands and praire potholes in the area? Maybe it is time to return part of the land back to what it use to be. Maybe it is time to quit fighting Mother Nature.

Carol Jacobs
Isle, Minn.
Sunday, March 22, 2009

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