Despite an ongoing rivalry between North Dakota State University and SDSU, members of both of the university’s Farmhouse fraternities joined forces to help retain the Red River before it reached its crest at over 40 feet.
“Talking with residents was a profound, eye-opening experience,” Alan Haarstad, Farmhouse fraternity treasurer said.
On March 25, nine members of SDSU’s Farmhouse fraternity joined forces with 100 to 150 other citizens to help a Fargo neighborhood build their dike after flood levels were expected to rise.
“They were anticipating a crest right around 40 feet,” Haarstad, a history and theatre major said. “It was perfectly ready for a crest at 40 and a half feet, but we had to bring it up another two feet. We had to build the base wider and go up.”
“We got there, and they were really dragging,” Haarstad said. “Members of NDSU Farmhouse had been working 10-hour days. It felt really good to help.”
Members of the SDSU Farmhouse treated their brothers to dinner, before heading back to work on the dikes, Kyle Chirpich, a senior agricultural engineering major and member of Farmhouse said.
“It really showed our brothers support.”
Fargo may have looked more like a large construction site than a city, as both Haarstad and Chirpich said there were large excavators throughout the city. Semi trucks carrying sand bags even received police escorts to their destination.
“The city was bustling and active; it seemed like it was in a constant state of work,” Haarstad said. “The city was sandbagging everything; everything revolved around sandbagging. I half expected it to be dead and fleeing.”
Though the trip was short – the members helped sandbag for five to six hours during the night – memories of sandbagging will be with the members for some time to come.
A common topic of conversation were the recent Summit League Tournaments.
“There was a lot of talk about basketball,” Haarstad said. “We both won in the Summit League. It was pretty cool to see a rivalry become common ground.”
“I was working next to a couple of old guys,” Chirpich said. “We talked a lot about basketball and how a permanent dike could have been built to protect the area.”
Though citizens were in a state of unease, they remained light hearted about the situation.
“One older guy standing beside me told me that the younger college guys were making him look bad,” Haarstad said.
The older man told Haarstad that the harder you work, the more people expect out of you.
Throughout their brief time in Fargo, Haarstad said that the group threw roughly 4,000 to 4,500 sand bags total.
“You get in a big line, and it is constant catching and throwing and catching and throwing,” Haarstad said. “You really felt like you did something, but in the grand scheme of things, they needed 3 million sandbags.”
Brothers from SDSU sandbagged until about 2:30 a.m. on April 26 and then packed up and headed home. Prior to leaving for Fargo around 3 p.m. on March 25, the members took into consideration road and travel conditions.
“When we reached about six miles outside of Fargo and the water was six inches to a foot from the interstate, that was the first big holy cow for me,” Haarstad said.
“Fargo is flat; I think it has a two inch per mile rise,” Chirpich said. “Farm equipment was moved toward the road, and there was water everywhere.”
Chirpich also said that when driving through Oxbow, N.D., another area affected by flooding, there were Coast Guard fan boats traveling over the water.
“We are not used to seeing that on the prairie.”
Another shocking sight for Haarstad was watching semis at a large scale fueling station outside of Fargo.
“Semis were in an inch and a half of water pumping fuel into gas tanks,” Haarstad said. “Gas lifts up, is buoyant in water, and there have been incidents where they have blown out of the ground; they were trying to prevent that.”
Farmhouse members enjoyed their short time in Fargo.
“I had a lot of fun. Yes, we were up there for bad things, but it felt really good to help,” Haarstad said.
“This really showed our brothers support,” Chirpich said. “It wasn’t that we were really going to help Fargo, but more to show support towards our brothers.”