FLOOD NEWS: Guardsmen Brave Elements During 12-Hour Dike Patrol Shifts

  • Published
  • By Pfc. Cassandra Simonton
  • North Dakota Army National Guard
North Dakota National Guardsmen throughout potential flood areas are braving the cold weather to walk along the dikes in 12-hour shifts, on guard against potential breaches in them, as a part the ongoing flood prevention mission.

Staff Sgt. Elise Peterson and Staff Sgt. Jarrett Permann, of the 119th Wing, North Dakota Air National Guard, were walking the portion from Main Avenue to 6th Street in Fargo Thursday. Their primary duties included continuously walking to look for breaks or leaks in the dikes, reporting on rising water, and keeping curious people off of the dikes. The concern was low for dike breaches however, as the dike was built to 40 feet and the water at the time was only at 34 feet, Permann said.

While on duty, Peterson said they received visits from local police and the Salvation Army, which brought snacks and beverages.

Staff Sgt. Ashley Gehlhar, of West Fargo, N.D., is on her second year assisting with flood operations. Gehlhar was on duty Friday, and the weather was not as pleasant as it had been earlier that week. Nonetheless, Gehlhar still had many positive things to say about flood operations this year.

"This year is a lot easier and a lot less stressful," she said. "We're prepared and we know what to do."

Aside from the Main Avenue Bridge to the Dike East area in Fargo, there are shifts of dike walkers working by the Oak Grove School, City Hall and near 30th Ave. S. off of University Drive.

"We're very lucky," Gehlhar said. "There's plenty of food, lots of volunteers, and the families are so thankful."

One of the organizations that has been showing its support of the North Dakota National Guard is the Salvation Army, which has been driving around visiting the Guard members and bringing them extra food and drinks. Bonnie Johnson, of Park Rapids, Minn., who is a volunteer with the Salvation Army, said all of the organization's volunteers love the opportunity to show their support to North Dakota National Guard members.

"Without you guys here, this town would be under water," Johnson said.

Many Soldiers and Airmen are operating in the same capacity for flood duties as they were last year, and many expressed that things are going even more smoothly due to better weather and more experience this year.