Tuesday, March 31, 2009

This Country Could Use more North Dakotans

As the flood fight continues in Fargo, I've been overwhlemed with the human interest stories that have come to light. Fargo is a special place - where volunteers have made 5.5 million sandbags in the last week. When you consider that each sandbag takes 4 people to create, you can image just how many people have come out to help. As national journalists have come to Fargo covered the rising river, they've uncovered more about the people than the river.

This CNN photo/audio essay really captures the spirit of the place. As I look at photos, listen to stories, and hear Mayor Walaker defend the city's decision not to evacuate, I can all but fight back tears.

I also want to share this personal story that captures the mood in Fargo - from someone whose home is safe.

The fight is far from over. Six inches of snow fell yesterday with more on the way. Current projections suggest a second crest around 40 feet in mid-April when the snow melts, especially in the southern valley.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sunday in Fargo-Moorhead

It appears the Red River has crested, but the city remains vigilant as it monitors the strength of its dikes. Despite the crest, the dikes now have to hold back the strong river current for 3 to 7 days. This was made painfully clear early this morning as the dike at Oak Grove Lutheran School failed and two buildings - including their beautiful performing arts building - have scummed to water. It's a devastating loss for this school, which has rebuilt itself since the campus was lost in the flood of 1997. I know several families that have been sandbagging all week at the school so I know just how hard they've tried to save the school.

Volunteer sandbagging has resumed at the FargoDome and shifts of volunteers continue to monitor the dikes 24 hours a day. It is the work of volunteers that has kept this city alive - and will help the city recover in the weeks and months to come. Click here to read an AP story featuring "Stories of Volunteerism."

And, on a personal note, my family's beloved Bailey - and my mom - are featured in a lifestyle story today. Be sure to check out the accompaning photos.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Fargo Flood Update

Volunteers are still working, all non-essential businesses are closed, travel is limited to volunteer sandbaggers and official vehicles, and evacuations are increasing. The situation is unprecedented.

For those of you who are wondering, my mom lives in the highest part of the city, and even in the worse case scenario, she should be fine. But, we do have a Plan B for her, just in case.

And, in the spirit of this blog - and my thesis which I'm finishing today - here's some news about the West Fargo Lions Club:

The West Fargo Lions pancake and sausage feed scheduled for Saturday at Blessed Sacrament Church, West Fargo, has been postponed.

Once it's rescheduled, I hope everyone will go out to support their work in the community!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

The Sheer Power of Volunteers

I just heard during the City of Fargo's daily press conference that volunteers made 500,000 sandbags yesterday alone. That's a total of 2.5 million sandbags made by volunteers in 5 and a half days. There are so many amazing stories of how this community has come together to fight the rising water, but this is one way to measure it concretely.

"Spirit Incredible"

I'm listening to radio coverage online this morning and the flooding situation in Fargo-Moorhead gets worse. Help is urgently needed and the community continues to rally around the flood fight. I'm overwhelmed just reading and listening to the stories. As of 6:15am the river was at 38.19 feet, with a projected crest of 41 feet on Saturday. As the Fargo Forum's headline declares, we are in "UNCHARTED TERRITORY."

Please read the news coverage and look at these dramatic photos.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Voluntary Spirit Thrives

I've been obsessed with reading all of the flood coverage the last few days, to the neglect of my work. Things got worse overnight as a blizzard moved into the area and 3 inches of snow have already fallen today - that's on top of the rain which fell yesterday, making most roads dangerously icey. While the universities have cancelled classes since Monday, all schools are closed today. With all the little kids home from school today, my mom thought that might actually deter people from volunteering. The city of Fargo is still calling for a massive volunteer effort today.

Volunteer stories are flooding in as well. Many people are saying what I'm thinking: It's 1997 all over again. Here's just one of those stories, which highlights my brother's favorite soccer coach.

And, of course, you can see updated photos here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Flood Fighting Volunteers

It's 1997 all over again in the Red River Valley. The Valley, especially the "twin cities" of Fargo, ND and Moorhead, MN, are especially vulnerable to the rising Red River because:

1) the ground was already saturated from heavy fall rains, followed by,
2) heavy winter snow fall, which is only about half melted,
3) 2 days of record rainfall, and
4) an impending blizzard.

(By the way, this is my unofficial understanding of the flooding situation. For a more scientific understanding, check out the Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service.)

Not good at all. From what I'm reading, the cities are doing a good job of mobilizing volunteers to both make sandbag - some 3 million of them - and building protective ring dikes around peoples' homes. Most of the local colleges and high schools have canceled classes so that students and faculty can volunteer. Some 20,000 volunteers came out yesterday, with an additional 10,000 needed today. For an area of about 150,000 people, the local voluntary spirit is high - - and as we did in 1997 (I spent a good part of that last semester of high school sandbagging) the community will put up a good fight, and I hope that most homes will be saved. There is really no better example of what a community can do to help their neighbors in a time of crisis.

Check out photos by my cousin Dave Arntson (er, third cousin once removed, maybe?).

As I sit at my desk this Tuesday morning looking at a framed photo of the iconic Fargo Theatre, I actually miss home and wish I was there to help. Much love!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Where do you vaycay?

I'm a travel girl. I love it. I may or may not have a gold, shiny passport cover. And a method to packing that allows me never to wear the same outfit twice. Even if I'm just carrying on. I.Kid.You.Not.

A new trend in travel these days is Humanitourism. I have heard of Voluntravels before, but this seems to fall on an upper echelon of travelers. Daily Candy, the posh social updates I get sent to me every morning, featured this new trend in their ever-popular travel section. This week's Daily Candy Travel highlights three types of Humanitours, one in India, Greece, and even on the peaks of Mt. Kilamanjaro. Aside from helping communities and animals, the perks include "Karma points" and stays in "comfy tents."

An indulgent way for people to feel good about themselves while enjoying the benefits of travel? Or a good way to draw an otherwise uninvolved, elitist population?

Either way, I'm carrying on.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Romeo the Cat

You've heard it all here, folks.

Click here to read all about Romeo, the Twittering, fundraising cat.

And a big shout out to my favorite cats Belle & Mr. Poot.