Volunteers step up work in Adrian and MontpelierIn dealing with disaster volunteers laugh, cry and sometimes even mince words. But in a battle against a common enemy, their primary defense is each other.
By: Katie Ryan, The Jamestown Sun
ADRIAN, N.D. — In dealing with disaster volunteers laugh, cry and sometimes even mince words. But in a battle against a common enemy, their primary defense is each other.
Residents in communities like Adrian and Montpelier, N.D., built and reinforced dikes Thursday in preparation for high water levels Friday and today.
For many of them, this sandbag session was round two.
The James River in Adrian crested on March 24 at 20.34 feet. That day, residents reported water in their basements, garages, barns and farmland.
This weekend, water levels are expected to climb higher.
To prevent more damage, Adrian residents increased their sandbag efforts.
“It’s what we did the first time and it’s what we gotta keep doing,” said Lucas Rode, Adrian resident.
Rode covered 10 layers of sandbags with a plastic sheet Thursday, careful to place an additional bag on top to keep the sheet in place.
But the home he protected was not his own.
Rode, like many volunteers, sandbagged about 10 Adrian homes that day. And it wasn’t just people. Businesses helped too.
Jamestown Implement lent a tractor and a straight truck to the flood-fighting effort as well.
Rode’s basement filled with 7 1/2 feet of water after the March flood, drowning personal possessions like the family’s freezer, pool table and hot water heater.
His wife, Shawna’s, wedding dress, though, survived.
“In every disaster, you always run into something that makes no sense,” said Pat Rode, Lucas’ mother who lives across the street.
For now, the family is living with Lucas’ parents. But even Pat and Loren Rode’s house is in danger of flooding.
Volunteers sandbagged their home Thursday while the James River beckoned not 20 feet away.
When the flooding is over, the main floor of the Lucas’ home may be salvageable, he said. If not, Lucas, Shawna and their 17-month-old son, Hudson, will move and rebuild. Either way, the home will relocate, he said. The stress of flood fighting is taking a toll on his family.
“We’ll just have to take our licks and move on,” he said.
Even Hudson was feeling the chaos and uncertainty of high river waters.
“He doesn’t play with his toys much,” Lucas said. “All he wants to do is be with mom or dad.”
Like Rode, emotions of many sandbaggers range from erratic, scared and grief to joking and playful — all within a sentence or two.
The sandbags weighed about 40 pounds a piece, but it was nothing volunteer Jennifer Amundson and other helpers couldn’t handle.
“Hey — if these mountain boys can do it, I can do it,” she said.
Optimistic spirits weren’t limited to Adrian.
Lighter fare continued in Montpelier, too.
After one volunteer stepped into the same puddle as Chad Housh, teasing and name-calling ensued.
“You see the people who work here. ‘Bonehead’ describes a lot of us,” said Ben Brodigan, Jamestown resident.
Brodigan helped sandbag along with several volunteers like Trevor Davis, Troy Brown, Tim Herman and Blake Naze, all Montpelier, and Jon and Penny Bartholomay, Enderlin.
The volunteers helped Housh place about 6,000 sandbags at the home of his mother, Linda Barnick.
“You’ve got to laugh or you cry,” said Barnick who lost her husband, Otto, in January.
“You don’t even have time to deal with that,” she said of the grieving process.
Emotions see-sawed at the neighboring farm of Paul and Audrey Gohner too.
“Intellectually, I can handle this,” said a joking Mike Larson, Horace, N.D., as he shoveled dark sand into an upside-down construction cone.
Larson and about a 10 volunteers scooped, bagged and tied sandbags while other volunteers stacked them like an igloo around the house. The Gohners’ basement filled with water during the March flooding, evacuating the couple to a Jamestown motel — for 10 days.
Larson, who sandbagged when Fargo experienced flood problems last month, said his muscles were getting a workout. A week ago, he said he was so sore, he needed help opening an Advil bottle.
“Was it Advil or Coors Light?” asked fellow shoveler, Woody Wilson, Sanborn, N.D.
The volunteer efforts likely concluded Friday, but Adrian and Montpelier residents worry about the water releases from the Jamestown and Pipestem dams.
At a combined level of 1,400 cubic feet per second Friday afternoon, the dams weren’t releasing the full 1,800 cfs officials said they’d likely have to in the future.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reduced water releases Friday. The reduction was to keep the water from exceeding 1,800 cfs when combined with Jamestown water runoff, officials said.
Like the water levels, emotions are many and run high. But for many volunteers, exhaustion is not yet one of them.
“From one house to the next. As soon as one gets done, we just keep going,” Amundson said.
Sun reporter Katie Ryan can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by e-mail at email@example.com