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Dave Roepke, Published April 08 2011

‘10 times easier’: Flood prep less hectic for Northwood Drive homes this time around

RURAL FARGO - It’ll be creepy pretty soon at Mike Kangas’ house. The Red River will spill onto the road leading into the development where he lives on Northwood Drive a few miles north of Hector International Airport. The only way in will be by boat.

His wife, child and dog are already off to dry land. So when the floodwaters come this weekend, Kangas will rely on beer and ESPN to keep him company. But having loneliness overtake fear as the reigning emotion is a welcome trade-off.

Like so many areas along the Red, Northwood Drive is in far better shape than it was in 2009, and not just because the top end of the crest forecast for Fargo fell to 40 feet on Thursday.

Practice makes perfect, no matter how reluctant that practice may be.

On Northwood Drive, there’s more volunteer help available, residents say. One group dispatched by Cass County and another comprised of West Fargo students made their way from house to house in the 12-house neighborhood Thursday.

At Kangas’ home, dozens of workers descended to throw down sandbags needed to hold his plywood flood wall in place. It took them 20 minutes to accomplish what would take him half the day, he said.

“It’s noon, and my back’s not sore for the first time in six days,” said Kangas, a 36-year-old who oversees the state’s nursery and state forest programs.

His neighbor a few houses down, Charlie Renville, was equally pleased by the volunteer turnout Thursday. It was a no-nonsense bunch. Bag first. Eat later.

“They didn’t even want food or water. They just want to go to the next house,” Renville said.

But the biggest difference between the hectic days of flood prep in 2009 and the tranquil diligence of 2011, on Northwood Drive at least, is the sandbags the county delivered to each home on the street. For the first time, thanks to now-common bag-making spider devices, they were both pre-assembled and tied.

“I’ll gladly pay more taxes for that machine,” Renville said.

“That’s the last time you’ll hear that from Charlie,” said Todd Helm, a fellow Air National Guardsman, as he helped ring Renville’s house with a couple feet of sandbags.

The whole dike-making effort at the Renville house took two hours Thursday. In 2009, it took two days to build the same protection, family and friends turning 30 cubic yards of sand piled on the driveway into bags. They didn’t have time to tie them, which made placing the bags more tedious.

“Wooo, that was a big operation,” Helm recalled. “This is 10 times easier.”

Whether the every-year-flood trend continues or not, Renville plans to make his springs even easier. No need to fight smarter if you don’t have to fight at all. He’s thinking of building a permanent clay dike, like a nearby neighbor has done.

“That’s the future for me, too. I’m tired of this, that’s for sure,” Renville said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535