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East Otter Tail lends hand on Red River

Perham High School students smile as they pass the heavy sand bags down the line to the dike. Nearly 400 students, faculty and volunteers bussed into Moorhead March 25.1 / 3
New York Mills High School students, from left, Janessa Hofland, Stephanie Hendrickx, and Kim Becker were among a group of 40 NYM seniors who went to Fargo-Moorhed last week to help in the sandbagging effort.2 / 3
Darin Welter and Reed Jacobson of the New York Mills Fire & Rescue Department work on a sandbagging line to try and hold off the rising Red River in the Horn Park neighborhood of south Moorhead last Friday.3 / 3

Hundreds upon hundreds of East Otter Tail area volunteers will never forget their contribution in fighting the Red River Valley flood of 2009--the second "500-year flood" in 12 years.

Volunteer efforts from the lake and farm country of Otter Tail were enumerable.

Compiled here are only a few flood stories and examples of volunteerism that came across our desks as the battle against the Red River raged.

Local firefighters, emergency crews help out

New York Mills firefighters were among the thousands of volunteer sandbaggers.

Among the emergency personnel from this area were Mark Ebeling and Tim Fresonke, of Perham Emergency Services, who helped transport patients during the various evacuations last week around Fargo-Moorhead.

Three Dalton firefighters were working the Moorhead side of the river on March 29, taking an inventory of the contributions of area fire departments and equipment they used to assist with the flood fight.

The three firefighters from Dalton included Otter Tail County Commissioner John Lindquist; Mike Bye; and Dalton Fire Chief Eric Mounts--who is the nephew of longtime Ottertail Mayor Raymond "Ole" Mounts.

Area Guardsmen patrol dikes with Wadena unit

Wadena-based Army National Guard Delta 2-136CAB was well represented, performing all-night dike watches--on the look-out for leaks.

Four of the soldiers working Sunday afternoon were from the area. Among them were: Brian Lamm, a 1998 graduate of New York Mills High School; and Ryan Mjolsness, a 2006 Perham graduate. Two Sebeka graduates and Guardsmen were also walking the dikes: Miles Schoon, 1992 graduate; and Matt Palmer, 1990 grad.

"There are long stretches of boredom, with brief moments of excitement," commented one of the soldiers. "We were called for support at a location where a dike had been breached--but before we got there, they had closed it up."

"But we were willing and ready," chimed in another soldier.

Students put in hard labor at Red River dikes

Busloads of students from Perham and New York Mills rolled into Fargo and Moorhead last week to assist with sandbagging operations.

The Perham contingent, numbering more than 400 students, faculty and other volunteers, filled eight busses. They tossed sandbags in one of the most flood-threatened sectors of Fargo-Moorhead: The Ox Bow neighborhoods.

So impressive was the convoy of bright orange busses, loaded with reinforcements, a caller phoned in to radio station 107.9 in Fargo. The caller was very impressed with the entourage.

"Another reason for Yellowjacket pride," commented Dan Christenson, who heard the report on the radio station.

Perham's volunteer efforts also made the international headlines. A photographer for the global news service Reuters published a photo online--which showed Perham students, and vocational-agriculture instructor Carl Aakre, throwing sandbags into the back of a truck for distribution to flood victims' houses at a bagging station.

"When our kids have the opportunity to practice the grace of service, they feel very valued," said Perham school Superintendent Tamara Uselman.

"These kids didn't have to do this--it is warmer, drier and easier in the classroom," added Uselman. "In fact, when it was time to come back to Perham after sandbagging, they didn't want to leave...they wanted to keep working into the evening," said Uselman.

Perham Rotary members spent a day sandbagging, Tuesday, March 24, and several them returned for duty on subsequent days.

Patients relocated to Perham, New York Mills facilities

Perham Memorial Hospital and Home received three nursing home residents from Eventide, Moorhead, Minn., and one hospital patient from MeritCare Hospital, Fargo, ND, as a result of evacuations taking place at both locations.

As flood concerns persist, Perham Memorial Hospital and Home continues its on-going communications with regional health care partners to update the availability of receiving additional transfers.

The Perham MeritCare clinic is delaying routine care appointments to create urgent care access for evacuees from the Fargo-Moorhead area. Patients will be contacted if their appointments are postponed.