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CALLING ON THE KIDS: F-M area asking students for help

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Fargo-Moorhead leaders are counting on a wall of volunteers to hold back the rising Red River for the second time in less than a year.

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The call went out on both sides of the river Monday for extra help to fill sandbags and build levees in the region's flood-prone areas.

Like last year, area students are being counted on to help get the job done.

Classes are canceled today at Concordia College in Moorhead so students and staff can volunteer.

High school students at Fargo, West Fargo and Moorhead public and private schools are also being allowed to sandbag during or after school hours, depending on the district, with a parent or guardian's permission.

Despite the pressure of a rapidly rising river, people aren't panicking.

"(We're) feeling prepared," Moorhead resident Gina Strand said as she tossed sandbags in a line at Moorhead's sandbag-filling site. "I just feel better about this year than last year."

Area levees will be raised to at least 40 feet, planning on the river leveling off at 38 feet. The bases of the levees will be built wider so they can be raised if floodwaters rise higher than expected.

Late Monday, Moorhead officials announced city counselors would meet at 3 p.m. today to consider a request for flood emergency assistance and a cooperation agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to construct clay contingency levees.

By 6:15 p.m. Monday, the Red had surged to 25.93 feet in downtown Fargo-Moorhead, spurred by a record eight-day thaw in early March.

"Everything's in full thaw cycle here," said Greg Gust, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

The Red was forecast to crest between 37 and 39 feet in the metro on Saturday.

Temperatures are to hit nearly 50 degrees Wednesday and Thursday, but clear skies could push them below freezing overnight. On Thursday, a cold front will move into the area that should slow runoff, the weather service predicts.

National Guard soldiers and airmen began mobilizing Monday to take on a variety of roles, manning checkpoints and command centers, erecting HESCO barriers, sandbagging, and patrolling dikes.

Between 300 and 400 Guardsmen will work in the North Dakota counties of Cass, Steele, Traill, Barnes, Ransom, Sargent and Richland, said southeast region commander Col. Ronald Solberg.

Guard officials have said 2,700 are available in North Dakota, and 9,000 could be called on in Minnesota.

Fargo plans 24-hour-a-day distribution of about 740,000 sandbags by Wednesday, officials said.

Moorhead, meanwhile, also began moving its sandbags to neighborhoods near the river, starting immediately north and south of Interstate 94.

Public Works Director Chad Martin said the city probably made its goal of 300,000 bags Monday. However, sandbags will continue to be made until the flood is past, he said.

Moorhead volunteers should report to Nemzek Hall on the Minnesota State University Moorhead campus.

Cass County will begin building sandbag levees today. Five miles of clay dikes in subdivisions north and south of Fargo should be done by Thursday, officials said.

Sheriff Paul Laney is urging homeowners to get to work if they aren't already.

"People need to get serious about this," he said.

The county will today begin running a volunteer labor center at the Urban Plains Center in southwest Fargo.

Cass officials will meet with residents of Reed, Raymond, Berlin, Harwood, Wiser, Gardner and Noble townships at 7 tonight at the Harwood Community Center.

In Clay County, 30 roads were already under water, Sheriff Bill Bergquist said.

By Comstock, "you can see water for miles," he said, urging rural residents to be careful driving and in determining whether to stay with their homes.

Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker reiterated he will order businesses closed if it's necessary to keep traffic off the roads so trucks and machinery helping in the flood fight can quickly get to their destinations.

"This is an emergency. We will do what we have to do to protect the public," he said.

Forum reporters Dave Roepke, Kelly Smith, Dave Olson, Patrick Springer, Kristin Daum and Tracy Frank contributed to this article.

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