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Sandbagging In North Sioux City

June 19, 2014, 5:34 PM by Perry Groten

Sandbagging In North Sioux City

People in North Sioux City, South Dakota, are nervously watching the rising Big Sioux River from behind a protective barrier of sandbags. 

South Dakota National Guard troops filled the sandbags in the parking lot of Dakota Valley Elementary. It's the first line of defense for many homeowners threatened by flooding.

Armed with their shovels, soldiers with the South Dakota National Guard are waging a trench war, of sorts, against the approaching flood: turning sand piles into sandbags.

"It's where we can get the local populace to say the National Guard is helping us. We're not just an army; we are part of the community," Sgt. Brian Lanz of the 155th Engineer Company of Wagner said.

The goal is peak efficiency in the face of urgency.

"It is actually going really smoothly other than the fact that trying to get all the vehicles through because traffic's so backed up, but there's really nothing we can do about that," Lanz said.

The line for the sandbags stretches all the way down the driveway of the elementary school. People are using whatever vehicles it takes to get the sandbags where they need to go, including a front-end loader. Some people are waiting more than an hour to get their sandbags.

"We haven't been too frustrated. The line does keep moving. It's real systematic. You can see where you are and so you see movement and see what's going on so we're not too bad; I'm okay with it," homeowner Steve Bruening said.

Bruening's home overlooks the sandbagging operation.

"Our house is elevated pretty good so we're hoping, unless it gets really bad that our house won't be bad, but our electrical transformer is lower that services the house so that's actually where we're going to put the bags," Bruening said.

Guard members unload about 35 sandbags onto each waiting vehicle. Residents are able to drive home with some flood prevention peace of mind thanks to the soldiers' efforts.

"I think it's great that they're here. I really appreciate that they came down and putting in the effort. It's hard work, it's hot and so I think it's great," Bruening said.

Guard members trucked-in the sand from across the border in Nebraska.

The sandbagging operation is taking the place of annual two-weeks' of training exercises for many of the guard members.

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