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Locals rush to aid Fargo as river rises

Ten high school students comprised the majority of a group that traveled to Fargo this week to help residents protect their neighborhoods against flooding.

A group of 13 River Falls residents - 10 of them high school students - traveled to Fargo last week to help residents there fill sand bags and shore up their city against the rapidly rising Red River.

The mission came together quickly, starting with an all-call for people who could go and help. Resident Pam Ballard's neighbor, Barb Kujak, has an aunt there, which helped start the idea. A few other friends spread the word.

Volunteers piled in on Tuesday afternoon for the long drive west. Ballard said they first helped fill sandbags at the Fargo Dome and next went to pile sandbags onto a dike to make it taller.

The group packed sleeping bags and stayed overnight in a church. Ballard said friends and relatives fed them well.

She told of an "amazing" lady who lived near the dike; she opened her garage as a sort of soup kitchen. People lined up outside the home to get a quick bite while they waited on more sand or more bags.

Ballard said when the group arrived Tuesday evening, it was about 40 degrees. The next day, it snowed four inches and temperatures dipped into the teens.

"The wind was so bad," said Ballard.

She said the group met lots of people from other places as well as from the Fargo area. Nobody in the River Falls faction met any people who had traveled as far their group.

The 10 high school students who helped: Heath Westburg, Ryan Sylla, Bob Stolp, Trevor Ross, Corey Rohl, Birgitte Nielsen, Luke Johnson, Luke Jensen, David Kujak and Mack Ballard. Their three adult chaperones: Chris Rohl, Barb Kujak and Pam Ballard.

Check future print editions of the River Falls Journal for more details about the group's experience.