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Published March 17 2010

Fargo Oak Grove residents begin stacking sandbags

After losing two battles with the Red River, Nancy Opitz is hopeful for a victory this year.

On Tuesday, she began stacking sandbags as the river crept about 10 feet from her north Fargo home. Last year, though, 10,000 sandbags didn’t stop the river from inundating her home of 26 years.

“It was all for nothing last year, so I’m hoping it works this year,” she said. “But that’s not the way it’s looking now.”

Surrounded by the Red River, the Oak Grove neighborhood was one of the worst-damaged areas after the river overtook its banks last year.

On Tuesday, the clay-caked roads and rows of sandbag-filled pallets showed the neighborhood is readying for a rematch.

City crews expect to begin work on a clay dike today that will help protect Oak Grove Lutheran School and nearby homes.

However, Opitz and another resident are on the other side of the dike, left protected only by the sandbags they stack this week.

At Oak Grove, where the school’s football field and goal posts sat under water, about 30 students stacked some 1,000 sandbags on the school’s floodwall to hold down plastic and fill in holes.

“Now we’re rushing to get it done, but we’re feeling pretty good about it,” senior Peter Frei said.

A block away, the Hughes family wasn’t just preparing to fight floodwaters, but part with their home of 17 years.

Their garage was torn down on Tuesday, making way for a clay dike along the river that, they say, will help protect the area.

“We definitely want to feel safe and want our neighbors to feel safe,” Lisa Hughes said.

They recently took a city buyout, they said, and plan to move out of their home next month. It wasn’t an easy decision, though, to leave land nestled between the quiet river and downtown Fargo.

“It’s an amazing, amazing spot,” she said. “We would have liked to stay another year, but obviously the time is now.”

The time might also be right for other residents once they battle the river for a second consecutive flood.

“If I lose it this year, I’m going to consider (a buyout),” Opitz said, eyeing the rising river. “It beat me twice.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter Kelly Smith at (701) 241-5515