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High school students form sandbag brigade to save N.D. homes from floods

Hundreds of students pitched in Friday to place 100,000 sandbags around Fargo as the Red River rises.

Dave Kolpack/Associated Press

Hundreds of students pitched in Friday to place 100,000 sandbags around Fargo as the Red River rises.

FARGO, N.D. — Hundreds of high school students pitched in Friday to place 100,000 sandbags around Fargo in an attempt to protect homes against Red River flooding.

The familiar sandbag party that kicked off what city officials call ‘‘tuck it in weekend’’ began in 2009, when residents fought the first of three straight major floods. Students placed 700,000 sandbags in less than two days during the last flood in 2011. Officials and residents hope not nearly as many are needed this year.

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The students sandbagged 134 homes throughout the city Friday and headed back to school after lunch was served by grateful residents such as Glenda Bro. About 40 students, mostly from Fargo North, laughed and sang as they tossed sandbags outside the home where Bro and her husband, a Fargo physician, have lived for 32 years.

Bro said it was a relief to have the sandbagging help, which she called ‘‘organized and calm.’’ The singing helped.

‘‘That’s kind of contagious,’’ Bro said. ‘‘Fear is contagious, and so is a happy spirit.’’

The city has reason to be optimistic.

The latest forecast calls for the Red River to reach a water level between 37 and 39 feet, down a foot from the previous crest range. Although the river begins to spill its banks at 18 feet, few structures are threatened until the water level goes above 38 feet, thanks primarily to increased flood protection efforts in recent years.

The river measured 21.7 feet at 2 p.m. Friday. Tim Mahoney, Fargo’s deputy mayor, said the city would be buttoned up by the end of the weekend, then officials will monitor the river on an hourly basis.

‘‘This weekend what we want to do is tuck it in, which means get all our dikes done, get all our sandbagging done, get everything done,’’ Mahoney said. ‘‘And then we wait and watch.’’

Many students were happy to be outside on what was the first day where temperatures reached into the 60s this year.

Student Ross Ashland, 17, said he felt good about sandbagging because he was forced to evacuate his house during a record flood in 2009. He said he was also happy to be out in a T-shirt for the ‘‘first time since winter started.’’

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