Saving Riverview Circle: Back to the wall

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In a previous post, I introduced you to another of the Riverview Circle residents I’m following this week — Vikki and Bruce Johnson. Here’s an update.

With the order to raise the sandbag levee by another foot, I couldn’t imagine having the gumption to get back out and sling sandbags. When I was by earlier in the day, there were few people on the street. So this evening I headed back to the neighborhood. I needed to do something more to help than write words.

But there’s more gumption here than water. Flatbed trailers full of sandbags lined the streets, people were walking toward Riverview Circle, after parking some distance away. The sandbag machine was back in action.

By the time I arrived, most of the work seemed to be done. I looked in at the backyard of the Morses. Check. And John Brummer’s. All good. Across the way at the Johnsons, however, two sandbag lines had formed, starting with a pile that had been unloaded in the driveway. I jumped in there.

There’s a method to this. You stand kitty-corner from a person across from you. I was at the beginning, picking up a bag, handing it to the person across from me who handed it to the person across from them. One line snaked down the backyard to the far neighbor’s house, another went to the other side.

Periodically we’d stop as the line was moved as if it was a firehose.

The “theater kids” from Moorhead High School, my sandbag neighbor told me, were at the end of the line. They’d been here since about 1 p.m., about 7 hours ago. Why? One of the kids in one of these houses is a ‘theater kid.”

She — my sandbag neighbor — had been down the street at the sandbag filling area for several hours. “You freeze down there,” she said. “Here, you stay warm by moving.” She was proud, apparently, that the flood was the #2 story on the Today show, this morning. I said if we can just get a Hollywood actress to come schlep sandbags, we could be #1.

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A Moorhead fireman joined the line and told me he’s been working 14 hour days for four straight days. He’ll be working them for more than four days more.

An older man from up the road crawled over the pile, trying to pry some frozen bags loose. We talked about how valuable the college kids have been in the tradition of students helping out during flood season over the years. “I remember the flood of 1969,” he said. “We were the college kids, then,” he added with a touch of sadness.

Two hours after I got there, we handed the last sandbag down the line. A cheer went up and within about two minutes, all of the people — perhaps 200 were involved — were gone.

Down at the now-43-foot levee, a few men added more sandbags to the river side of the wall, then stretched plastic over the top of the bags, and held it down with a few more bags. These were big men — in some cases young men. But they’ve been doing this for several days now, and they struggled to lift the bags to the top of the wall.

Watching them, it was clear that people who live on the river must read up on the art of making a sandbag wall.

Meanwhile, the Red River is rising, of course.

Here’s the view last Wednesday morning. Note the compost bin. The water is still considerably lower than it.

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Here’s the view on Wednesday night around 9 p.m.:

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As I walked back to the car, parked several blocks away, three flatbed trailer trucks loaded with more sandbags were pulling in. Just in case.

Update 11:58 p.m. – Moorhead’s sandbag central — Nemzek Hall at the Minnesota State University Moorhead campus is now open 24 hours. They’re calling for volunteers to help fill sandbags.

  • Noelle

    Bob – I just wanted to thank you for your vigilant coverage of the flooding. I’ve read a couple news articles online about it, but the photos you’ve posted here have hit home more than any news story could. My thoughts will be with the folks on Riverview Circle during the coming days.