Volunteers pack Fargodome to combat rising river

Fargo residents and out-of-towners teamed up to ready thousands of sandbags for use.

North Fargo resident and schoolteacher Cathy Speral writes messages on sandbags late Thursday evening at the Fargodome. Speral said she hoped it would boost the spirits of volunteers working on the front lines.

Matt Mead

North Fargo resident and schoolteacher Cathy Speral writes messages on sandbags late Thursday evening at the Fargodome. Speral said she hoped it would boost the spirits of volunteers working on the front lines.

FARGO, N.D. — The Red River continued to rise Thursday, hovering dangerously close to bridges and spilling over sidewalks and parks. Fargo-Moorhead community members and others in town to help them filled the Fargodome âÄì and thousands of sandbags — on Thursday night, as they had been for days. Volunteers, ranging in age from grade-schoolers to grandparents, prepared, filled, stacked and transported sandbags. The Salvation Army fed and hydrated volunteers. A sign at a nearby elementary school pleaded community members to head to the Fargodome to help fill thousands of sandbags still needed to protect the town from the riverâÄôs predicted record-setting crest, expected this weekend. Inside the event center, D.J. Guerrero set up his own post at the entrance to the sandbag-filling area, he said, to direct people and to steer away gawkers. âÄúIt keeps this thing working,âÄù he said from his seat overlooking the crowd of busy helpers. âÄúItâÄôs necessary.âÄù Guerrero said heâÄôs spent 30 hours at his spot between Wednesday and Thursday, and that heâÄôll stay âÄúâÄôtil they kick us out.âÄù

D.J. Guerrero directs volunteers to the sandbag stations on the Fargodome floor Thursday.
MATT MEAD, DAILY

He playfully used his cane âÄì which he called âÄúThe EqualizerâÄù âÄì to tap bystanders who clogged the walkway to the main floor sandbagging area to take pictures. Like many others, Guerrero isnâÄôt certain of his south Fargo homeâÄôs fate. âÄúI canâÄôt do anything about the house,âÄù he said. âÄúIf itâÄôs going to go, itâÄôs going to go.âÄù But Guerrero is glad to spend his time helping coordinate sandbagging efforts in the Fargodome. He offered, âÄúI would rather give up my house and maybe save half the town.âÄù Mark Janssen drove to Fargo from Andover, Minn., on Wednesday to aid flood relief efforts, especially because he has relatives in the area. âÄúIt was important to help, even though itâÄôs far away,âÄù he said after working through Wednesday night and half of Thursday. âÄúItâÄôs very meaningful.âÄù The last major flood in the area was in 1997, but the river has already exceeded that previously destructive level of more than 39 feet. Grand Forks was most heavily hit by that flood, and Janssen said he felt guilty about not helping his relative in that area during that disaster. Meanwhile, schoolteacher Cathy Speral meandered through stacks of sandbags with a Sharpie marker as her husband continued to pile the bags on. On the white sandbags, she wrote âÄúThanksâÄù and âÄúBuild That Dike,âÄù among other things, in an effort she hoped would boost the spirits of volunteers working on the front lines, stacking the sandbags at waterâÄôs edge. The SperalsâÄô home is surrounded by water, but itâÄôs shallow enough that it likely wonâÄôt do too much damage, she said, crossing her fingers. âÄúI think weâÄôre going to be OK,âÄù Speral said. âÄúBut a lot of people arenâÄôt going to be OK.âÄù To see a related audio slideshow, click here.