Cass County airboat to assist during flood


published: 6 Apr 2019
by: April Baumgarten

RURAL HARWOOD, N.D. — The vehicle that Williams County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ben White drove around Saturday, April 6, around a farm northeast of Harwood looks like a mini tank.

But once the all-terrain vehicle dubbed the Sherp got in the water, it floated smoothly.

“We got it about two weeks ago,” White said, noting the Sheriff’s Office based in Williston, N.D., used it in its flood fighting efforts.

Williams County brought the ATV to the east side of the state so the Cass County Sheriff’s Office could use it. The Sherp is one of the many tools Cass County is using to help residents fight overland flooding around the clock.

Cass County Sheriff's Deputy Bruce Renshaw, right, drives an airboat Saturday, April 6, near a farm northeast of Harwood, N.D., as Mercer County Sheriff's Deputy Brandon Doll rides along. April Baumgarten / Forum News Service
Cass County Sheriff’s Deputy Bruce Renshaw, right, drives an airboat Saturday, April 6, near a farm northeast of Harwood, N.D., as Mercer County Sheriff’s Deputy Brandon Doll rides along. April Baumgarten / Forum News Service

Rivers around the region started to rise in recent days, triggering flood warnings for Cass County. Some streams are expected to crest in the coming days, if they haven’t already. Most will stay above the moderate and major flood stage for days, testing ring dikes, levees and sandbags.

On top of that, snow from several blizzards this winter has melted, further compounding flood problems. Fields are flooded northwest of West Fargo, west of Gardner, N.D., and near Harwood, and some township and county roads have disappeared under the water.

“As the Sheyenne River continues to rise, it’s going to continue to spill out into different areas and cause overland flooding,” County Engineer Jason Benson said. “In the next 24 hours, I think we will see a lot more rural residents become isolated” as township roads and driveways are overtopped.

As of 6 p.m. Saturday, the Sheyenne was at 90.65 feet, about a foot and a half below the 1997 record. The Red River in Fargo was at 33.64 feet at that time.

The county has spent the last several days delivering sandbags to residents. At times, staff delivered the bags in the middle of the night after emergency requests came in from Gardner and Harwood residents, County Administrator Robert Wilson said.

Staff will respond to emergencies at anytime, but the county said it is safer to deliver the bags during the day, the county said in a news release as it urged residents to be vigilant and monitor changing conditions.

“Residents who suspect they may need sandbags are urged to be proactive and contact the Cass County Flood Hotline at 701-241-8000 as soon as they believe they may need Help,” the release said, adding flood information can be found at

The Cass County Sheriff’s Office has divided the county into districts and has sent deputies out to each one, Sheriff Jesse Jahner said. Officers patrol the areas and visit with residents to see if they have any questions regarding flood safety.

The Sheriff’s Office has switched to 12-hour shifts and has a tactical operations center that is staffed 24/7 with personnel from various agencies, including the Cass County Highway Department and the North Dakota Army National Guard. Residents who call in for assistance can be quickly connected for sandbags, emergency services and other flood-related information, he said.

Cass County has two airboats, but it asked Mercer County to bring two of its airboats to Fargo in case the Sheriff’s Office needs to respond to more than one incident at a time, Jahner said.

Jahner said Saturday he hadn’t heard of any flood-related injuries or evacuations. Residents, overall, have prepared this year, Benson said.

“A lot of people are aware of what’s coming,” Benson said.

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