Coast Guard joins Red River flood response

Jesse Jahner

Jesse Jahner, a sheriff with the Cass County Sheriff's Department, carries a young girl to safety after a dike broke near her home trapping her inside. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class David Weydert.

With contributions from Chief Warrant Officer Lionel Bryant and Petty Officer 3rd Class Richard Brahm

Coast Guard personnel, airboats and aircraft continue to assist in a multi-agency response to heavy flooding that started last week along the Red River in North Dakota and Minnesota.

This is the third straight year that significant flooding has occurred in the Red River Valley, with operations being led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the states of North Dakota and Minnesota. The President signed a federal emergency declaration April 7, allowing federal assistance to North Dakota.

Lt. Christine Brown

Lt. Christine Brown, ground forces branch manager for the tactical operations center in Fargo, N.D., coordinates with multiple federal, state and local agencies to ensure maximum inter-agency information dissemination. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Richard Brahm.

Working in “strike teams,” Coast Guard responders, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and local response agencies are on scene providing for the safety and welfare of the citizens as they locate, evacuate and transport victims to safe locations and to medical transfer areas. The rescue crews are also conducting periodic welfare checks in impacted communities and providing waterborne logistical support and access to flood damaged areas.

The Coast Guard has participated in the rescue of 10 people and three dogs in North Dakota thus far. One of these rescues occurred this past Sunday when an airboat crew evacuated four adults and a child, along with their two dogs, from their home in Argusville, N.D. The rescue crew included members of the Coast Guard, Cass County Sheriff’s Department, Burleigh County Sheriff’s Department and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“One of the most challenging aspects of Red River flooding is that the Red flows north into Canada, so that the upstream portions thaw well before the downstream portions, leaving the melt off with nowhere to go but over land,” said Capt. Steve Hudson, commanding officer Sector Upper Mississippi River.

Traffic slows on I-29 during Red River flood

Residents and travelers come to a crawl as flood waters cover Interstate 29, near Fargo, N. D. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Seth Johnson.

Coast Guard men and women have traveled from around the country to support the operations, with crews traveling from Corpus Christi, Texas, Traverse City, Mich., and New Orleans. There are a total of 54 Coast Guardsmen supporting the operation, along with two airboats, two helicopters, two Coast Guard Auxiliary communications units, an aircraft maintenance team and a boat maintenance and support team.

“Each year has its own unique challenges,” said Hudson. “But what has been consistent is the spirit and resiliency of the people of North Dakota, the tremendous leadership demonstrated by officials in Bismarck and Cass County and the superb ability of Coast Guard men and women, from all over the country to converge at the Red River and immediately conduct rescue operations in concert with our federal, state and local partners.”

The extent and duration of the flooding changes from year to year, making it impossible to predict the length of the response. The Coast Guard and its partner agencies will continue to support the states of North Dakota and Minnesota to ensure the continued safety and welfare of the affected communities.

Coast Guard boat crews familiarize themselves

Members of the Coast Guard and Cass County Sheriff's Department operate airboats to familiarize themselves with flooded areas in the event they need to assist residents, near Hickson, N. D. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Seth Johnson.

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