WDAY: The News Leader

Published February 05, 2012, 09:02 PM

Living with Water: The sandbag, a relatively new tool

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) -- We continue our Living With Water special, a Forum Communications. The sandbag. An emblem of our recent flood fights, but it's really a relatively new tool.

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) -- We continue our Living With Water special, a Forum Communications. The sandbag. An emblem of our recent flood fights. But it's really a relatively new tool.

Before the late 1960's, flood fighting techniques would be considered primitive at best.

Mark Piehl (Clay County Archivist): "Well basically before 1969 the idea was just get out of the way. It was deciding which people to encourage to move out of there homes and evacuate."

But by the flood of 1969, a new material was making holding back the water easier.

Mark: "They did have plastic sheeting, they had polyethylene sheeting by 1969. I think it made a huge difference. It's pretty tough to, I'm guessing it's pretty tough to keep back water just using sand and burlap."

With improvements in heavy machinery the 1969 Flood was in many ways the first modern flood fight in Fargo, sort of.

Mayor Dennis Walaker (Fargo): "A contractor would open a man hole cover and if he saw water he'd fill it full of sandbags."

After the 69 flood get out of the way took on a new meaning.

Mayor Walaker: "We had houses here that were flooding at 30 feet, so we started purchasing those and if we couldn't dike them we took them down."

Now it's everything from spider machines to hesco barriers to aqua fences to hold back the rising Red River. The computer is the cutting edge in flood fighting technology.

Brad ANderson (Moorhead GIS Specialist): "So we figured out from our Lidar data what areas will be affected."

Lidar is elevation data collected with a laser and than combined with GIS or Geographic Information Systems is the newest weapon in the flood fighting arsenal.

Brad: "Look at city infrastructure and our roads where are buildings are, elevations and then we can overlay it to work the plan. Where do we need to put levees where do we need to put permanent features, temporary features. "

Still there are limits to modern machinery and technology.

Mayor Walaker: "After they get the forklift out there to the sight and put the pallet of sandbags on the burm or the boulevard or in the back yard they have to be placed. That has not changed."

All the rest of the floods we have had really since the late 1960's. Once again, college students, high school students, kids, saving our bacon.

So when the water rises again, we'll likely turn to our most time tested flood fighting weapon, the youth. Forum Communications newspapers and broadcast will both continue our special project, Living With Water, the next four weekends.