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Published March 14 2010

Rural overland flooding causes concern

SABIN, Minn. – Kurt and Linda Siegert got a head start Friday and Saturday on what’s shaping up to be another sandbagging spree for the region.

Overland flooding thrust some in rural Clay County into full-blown flood-fighting mode this weekend.

In the Siegerts’ rural Sabin backyard, flooding summoned some 50 volunteers – neighbors and complete strangers – to build a sandbag dike to protect their home.

Elsewhere, rapid snowmelt and last week’s rain claimed township roads, washed over fields and strained nerves.

“Right now, I don’t think anybody’s under water,” Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist said Saturday. “But the water kept coming up, and people got a little scared.”

Linda Siegert said abrupt overland flooding around her home seems to be a harbinger of troubles farther north. Last year, the family scrambled to protect their home, a mile from the Buffalo River, a week before Fargo-Moorhead embarked on its own mad dash to beat the rising river.

Bergquist said limited sandbagging was under way on the northern edge of Oakport Township north of Moorhead. Clay County Emergency Management Director Bryan Green said overland flooding in rural areas doesn’t always spell trouble for the region.

“It happens every year,” he said. “The past couple of years it just happens a lot more than in a normal spring.”

Siegert said a Friday plea for help brought out volunteers to her home from as far as Hawley and Downer; they worked well past nightfall to complete a 1,000-bag dike, which warded off icy water by Saturday.

“We don’t live here because of the river,” she said. “We live out here because of who the people are. Everybody just helps everybody.”

But before the volunteers arrived, Siegert said, her family felt left to their own devices. They had to purchase their own sand and sandbags and track down a neighbor to open a culvert by their home to relieve flooding.

“Everybody’s out taking care of Fargo-Moorhead,” she said. “We out here in the country get kind of forgotten.”

Green said help is available to rural properties, but homeowners have to do some of their own flood preparedness.

“If you live out in the country, you have to prepare for yourself,” he said. “Everybody has to do their own emergency planning.”

Homeowners concerned about their properties should contact their township officials for sandbags. If they can’t line up volunteers, they could contact the Sheriff’s Department for help. As early as Monday, the county’s Emergency Operations Center will open for business at (218) 299-7768 or (218) 299-7769.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Mila Koumpilova at (701) 241-5529