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Dave Kolpack, Associated Press Writer, Published June 18 2010

ND used fewer sandbags to hold back 2010 floods

FARGO (AP) — North Dakota used significantly fewer sandbags to hold back floods this year, according to figures released by the state Emergency Services Department.

More than 2.4 million sandbags were filled and placed around the state in March and April, including more than 1 million bags in Fargo, the department said.

That compares to more than 18 million bags that were placed statewide in 2009, when Fargo was blasted by two crests, Valley City asked residents to evacuate, and ice jams led to unusual flooding along the Missouri River in western North Dakota.

"No flood is ever ho-hum for us," said Cecily Fong, Emergency Services spokeswoman. "We plan and prepare for all foods in the same manner."

Cass County used about 1.5 million bags this year, about 7 million fewer than 2009.

Not every town had it easier this time. More than 83,000 sandbags were used this spring in Mercer County to protect residents from flooding, compared to about 30,000 the year before.

The reason, county officials said, was preparation.

"People were caught off guard last year," said Carmen Reed, Mercer County emergency manager. "Nobody believed we would get flooded the way we did. There was no way they were going to let that happen this year."

About 45,000 bags were used in Beulah and 3,000 in Hazen to protect residents from the Knife River, Reed said. Another 35,000 were placed around the lift station in Zap that was threatened by Spring Creek.

The thought of the 2009 flood, which led to a frantic sandbagging effort that began one early morning, brought out more volunteers this year, Reed said.

"When we had our meetings I could just feel the anxiety," Reed said. "Last year was horrible for everybody. The water started coming in at 3 in the morning and caught everybody off guard, even though they were warned."

About 75 percent of the bags were used in eastern counties that border Minnesota. In addition to the 1.5 million bags in Cass County, that total included 150,00 in Richland County, 120,000 in Grand Forks County, 48,650 in Walsh County, 21,000 in Pembina County, and 10,000 in Traill County.

The lowest reported total of sandbags was in Logan County, were 30 bags were used to protect a barn, Fong said.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.