airboats gear up for spring flooding


by Retha Colclasure
published: 4 March 2011

Many agencies across North Dakota are gearing up for spring flooding, and they`re learning lessons from the floods of 2009.

And, the Burleigh County Sheriff`s Department is training with one piece of equipment they wished they had that year.

Burleigh County Sheriff's Department Airboat

Burleigh County Sheriff’s Department Airboat

A boat like this is normally found in the swamps. But now, it`s in the snow, ice and whatever else it comes across in North Dakota.

“This thing can operate over just about anything,” said Sgt. Roy Bailey, Burleigh County Sheriff`s Department. “We`re running it over the snow, up hills, into the water, across the ice.”

It`s an airboat, and because it can go across most anything, it can be a valuable tool to evacuate flood victims.

“When we had to evacuate Fox Island residents two years ago, we had a very difficult time getting in there. The top of the water was full of slush and we couldn`t get through with a regular motor boat because the propeller was just cavitating in the slush and we weren`t getting any propulsion,” explained Bailey.

This boat doesn`t replace any equipment they currently have. Instead, it gives them the capability to do things they couldn`t do before.

Right now, they`re training in case they`re needed in the Red River Valley, which is expected to flood. But they could be needed at home, too, if flooding in Burleigh County happens again.

Because the Sheriff`s Department doesn`t know exactly what kind of work they`ll be asked to do, they`re training for almost anything.

Bailey said: “The boat`s pretty maneuverable. The thing is you gotta really watch any kind of currents, any kind of winds, anything that might move the boat around that you can`t maneuver out of.”

There are always at least two people on the airboat: one to drive and the other to watch out for obstacles in the water. Six people at the Sheriff`s Department will be trained to operate it.

The airboat was purchased with federal grant money after the 2009 floods.


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