Graduate Students

North Dakota and Minnesota Colleges Cancel Classes as Flood Worries Linger

March 29, 2009

Higher-education institutions on both sides of the swollen Red River have canceled classes until April 6 to give students and employees a chance to pile sandbags around vulnerable homes and properties and clean up any damage they might sustain.

North Dakota State University, in Fargo, is on relatively high ground, so officials there didn’t have to evacuate the campus. But many of its employees and students who live in areas directly threatened by flooding have had to leave their homes, and thousands have been working around the clock in sandbag brigades up and down the river.

They’ve been working alongside students and employees from Minnesota State University’s campus in Moorhead, which is directly across the river from Fargo, and Concordia College, a private Lutheran institution that is also in Moorhead. Those institutions have also canceled classes until April 6.

Concordia turned off its water and sewage systems and closed its campus on Friday after the City of Moorhead advised evacuation of the area the college is located in. The college helped transport and arrange housing for students who could not return home. Concordia football players built dikes to protect houses, and its soccer teams helped protect a neighborhood from a flooding channel, college officials said.

Minnesota State, which is on relatively high ground, remained open even though classes were canceled and on-campus students were urged to go home. About 25 students who had nowhere to go were evacuated to Bemidji State University.

Volunteers from the campuses have spent much of the past week sloshing through ankle-deep mud, hoisting sandbags, and building makeshift dikes. While the river apparently crested on Saturday at Fargo and was slowly receding today, the swollen floodwaters are expected to remain for as long as a week, and officials warned that the area is not out of danger.

The University of North Dakota, in Grand Forks, where the river is expected to crest later this week, also canceled classes for two days last week and on Monday. The campus itself is not in danger of flooding, but students were given time off to assist local communities with flood-preparation efforts. Many helped out in Fargo. —Katherine Mangan