Monday, March 30, 2009

Fargo Floods: March 25

Events of Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Location: Fargo, North Dakota

Disaster: Red River Flooding

We arrived in Fargo around 12:30 am...and it was snowing. When I wake up around 6:30 am, I am amazed to find 9" of snow on the ground. Yikes. And it hasn't stopped - it's still snowing, and the wind is blowing around 20 mph. No wonder I don't live up here.

Upon arriving at Headquarters, I run into some Minnesota volunteers who I have worked with in the past. Another fun thing about volunteering with the Red Cross - every disaster is like a family reunion. You will always run into people you've worked with - and it's always fun to figure out what disaster(s) it was that you worked together before on.

At 9:00 am, the Director of Operations (DO), Bob, comes out to give the assembled volunteers a quick briefing. The Red River is expected to crest on Saturday at 42 feet, which will set a new record. Currently, the Red Cross has volunteers out feeding the volunteer sandbaggers, as well as giving them hot coffee.

Our teams our all put on stand-bye, awaiting further instructions. This is where the fun begins. The assignments can be given in the next 5 minutes - or it may take days before an assignment is given. Patience is a must with the Red Cross - as you may be sitting awhile. I use it as an opportunity to conserve energy, knowing that once assigned, all hell will break loose and I'll need every bit of strength and energy I've got.

Our team is told that Red Cross is waiting on FEMA (what a surprise), as FEMA is deciding on whether a "mega" shelter should open. A mega shelter can hold thousands of people - it's what the Superdome was during Katrina.

We do manage a quick stop at Chili's for lunch - you never know when it will be your last hot-cooked meal.

Evie, myself and Patty - at Chili's

Then, it's back to HQ, to sit. And wait. After more hours of waiting, two more briefings, one Orientation meeting, and much snacking - our teams are dismissed to the hotel rooms around 6:30 pm. But - we are told to have our cell phones handy - as deployment can come at any time - and we need to be ready to go.

Because it is STILL snowing when we leave HQ, we decide to go straight back to the hotel and hunker down. The road conditions are horrendous - heck, the people conditions are horrendous. I was smart and came all the way to Fargo without a coat...what the heck was I thinking??! Luckily, a quick trip to Walmart around lunchtime solved that problem - but, still - it's just down right brutal in the frigid air and strong winds.

In the hotel room, it is interesting to watch the Weather Channel and see them filming from where you are at the present time. The river is still rising, and the sandbagging continues. These people are determined to save their homes. I say a prayer, and then, it's lights out.

The adventure continues....


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