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All Quiet on the Northern Flood Front -- For Now

Grand Forks, N.D. -- Despite a thick blanket of heavy wet snow and more on the way Friday, Staff Sgt. Eric J. Carlson wasn't too concerned the added precipitation would worsen the local flooding situation.

Carlson, a volunteer levee patroller with the North Dakota National Guard's Charlie Battery of the 1st Battalion, 188th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, said he'd seen a number of encouraging signs suggesting that floodwaters from the nearby Red River were receding in the Burke Addition neighborhood south of Grand Forks.

Many homeowners in the neighborhood had recently built new stone and brick floodwalls in their backyards to guard against the invading water. Carlson could tell by the watermarks on these walls that the flood level had gone down nearly a foot in 24 hours.

Despite the homeowners' fortified walls, there still were long stretches of earthen levees and sandbag barriers in the neighborhood.

Carlson also monitored a measuring stick near the shoreline. It offered the same story as the floodwalls that the water was in retreat.

He's among 12 Soldiers of the 1-188th ADA who are in Grand Forks providing a sense of security for residence in the Burke Addition. The Soldiers there are split into two teams. One team takes the day and the other gets the night shift.

Carlson said the Soldiers patrol the levee lines between the homes and the river, looking for cracks or leaks, checking pumps and warding of vandals.

Carlson, a newlywed who got married only three weeks ago, said volunteering is in his blood. His wife has known him for years and is used to him being away on duty. He just returned from a yearlong deployment to Kosovo.

"I pretty much always find my way onto the volunteer list," said Carlson, a native of East Grand Forks, Minn., who lives in West Fargo, N.D.

Pvt. 1st Class Nathan E. Erickson and Sgt. Cole L. Larocque, both of Grand Forks, were Carlson's levee patrolling partners on Friday. It took the trio about 30 minutes to walk the length of their sector and back again, before handing off duties to another three-Soldier team.

The two teams alternate turns on the levees throughout their 12-hour shift. While one team is out on the levees the other relaxes and warms up in Humvees.

"This is my first time being activated for duty of any kind," said Erickson, who just completed basic and advanced individual training in September. "It's not too bad; the neighbors have been really great. A lot of them have come up to us and said 'thanks,' or they bring us food and snacks and visit with us."

Downriver to the north, 12 more members of the 1-188th ADA were patrolling levees in Drayton, N.D.

Pvt. 1st Class Ashley M. Kramer, Devils Lake, N.D., and Sgt. Jeffrey J. Craik, from nearby St. Thomas, N.D., made their appointed rounds on the Drayton city levee system Friday afternoon.

They reported that all was quiet in town as far as the flood fight was concerned, but there was a feeling that something was on the way.

Still, Kramer said that the city is well protected and oft practiced when it comes to flood response.

The Red River at Drayton stood at 41.5 feet last Friday afternoon, less than three feet from its projected crest and more than five feet below the height of the city's levee system.

"So far things are going pretty good," she said. "The water is pretty low -- for now."

Craik said his hometown of St. Thomas is only a few miles from Drayton and he works at Marvin Windows and Doors in Grafton, only 10 miles away, as the crow flies.

"It's home for me," Craik said. "Having grown up around here, playing basketball around here and having friend here, it's just great to be able to help out my home area.

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