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Oxbow residents rescued as floodwaters take over dikes

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Oxbow residents rescued as floodwaters take over dikes
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

OXBOW, N.D. - Upwards of 20 people have been rescued by boat in Oxbow on the North Dakota side of the Red River, as floodwaters flowed in the streets and residents worked frantically to add height to sandbags dikes they hope can hold back an unprecedented river crest.

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"It's better to save your life than put yourself through all this," said Jane Pearson, one of the residents forced to leave her home on a Coast Guard boat Wednesday afternoon. Pearson and her husband, Frank, Oxbow's mayor, diked their home but wanted to get out while they still could. Rescue crews aren't planning to run during nighttime.

Sgt. Dwayne Nitschke of the Cass County Sheriff's Office said the speed with which the Red rose at Oxbow took officials and residents by surprise.

"This morning it was just like, 'Wow," he said. "This is scary to lots of people."

Nitschke said the river was threatening two streets, Schnell Drive and Riverbend Road. He said by the early afternoon, about 20 people had been evacuated from nine or 10 flooded homes.

On Schnell Drive, water over the street was higher than four feet in some areas and pickups and flatbeds left a wake as they hauled sandbags from a central bagging location near the Oxbow Golf and Country Club clubhouse to private homes.

Behind one of the lowest lying lots, Matt Murphy was racing against a fast-approaching river as he and a crew of volunteers tried to add a foot to his backyard sandbag dike.

"I need 2 by 6s all the way to the end!" he yelled out as the river sat about a foot below the top of his dike.

At the Knickerbocker Liquor Locker in the adjacent town of Hickson, the Coast Guard, water rescue teams and Cass County deputies spread maps on pool tables to figure out where to dispatched boats as those rescued already were tended to by the Red Cross. Mike Bice, owner of the bar, said the situation seemed stable Tuesday night but by Wednesday morning was "shockingly urgent."

"It's never been this bad," he said.

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