MSA aims to help fight flooding with sandbags

MSA wants to send 50 students to Moorhead to pack sandbags on pallets.

Cali Owings

The goal: 1 million sandbags to prevent disastrous flooding on the Red River.
On March 5, students from the University of Minnesota will help prepare those sandbags for delivery to neighborhoods in the Moorhead area with the help of the Minnesota Student Association.
MSA can send 50 student volunteers to a warehouse where theyâÄôll package sandbags on pallets for about eight hours, MSA Academics and Services Director Tyler Dirks said.
Some people have the misconception that âÄúflood reliefâÄù means âÄúfrantic workers with water lapping at their feet,âÄù Dirks said, but he hopes students can help out before that moment of crisis.
The National Weather Service predicts the water will exceed river levels by 18 feet in the next 10 days, leading to major flooding by the end of March.
If the predictions do not change, a volunteer center will open at Minnesota State University-Moorhead to organize workers to build sandbag dikes, said Leann Wallin, community policing coordinator with the Moorhead Police Department.
The city of Moorhead will begin producing sandbags today, Wallin said. This year, the city is using spider machines âÄî which can fill 9,000 sandbags per hour âÄî and paid labor to monitor the equipment. Wallin estimated that they will reach the 1 million mark within 10 days.
âÄúThe pre-filling of sandbags has really become key to a successful flood fight,âÄù she said.
In the past, piles of sand and empty sandbags were dumped in neighborhoods along the flood corridor. The process of filling the sandbags and placing them at the site was stressful and physically demanding, Wallin said.
Volunteers are needed most during the pallet packaging process, which begins Tuesday. Wallin said the city recommends 50 to 100 volunteers load pallets at all times to keep from getting backlogged.
Sandbags will be stored in heated warehouses to protect them from winter temperatures. If the sandbags freeze before they are placed along the river, they will be useless.
Though itâÄôs harder to get volunteers in the preparation stages, Wallin said outside groups that help out with preventative measures take some pressure off the local community that will be called upon when the river starts to rise.
Making matters worse last year, the flood hit during spring break, so there were fewer college students to volunteer with sandbag placement, she said.
The MSA bus will depart at 6 a.m. on Sunday, March 5 from Riverbend Plaza behind Coffman Union. Volunteers can expect to return at about 11 p.m. that night. MSA will provide food.