March 28th, 2009
10:01 AM ET
11 years ago

Obama: We're watching rising rivers

Volunteers at a Fargo, North Dakota, city facility continue to fill and stack sandbags Friday.

Volunteers at a Fargo, North Dakota, city facility continue to fill and stack sandbags Friday.

FARGO, North Dakota (CNN) - President Obama said his administration plans to keep a close watch on and help fight the rising waters in the Dakotas and Minnesota.

"Even as we face an economic crisis which demands our constant focus, forces of nature can also intervene in ways that create other crises to which we must respond and respond urgently," Obama said Saturday in his weekly webcast.

"For the people of North and South Dakota and Minnesota who live along rivers spilling over their banks, this is one such moment."

Troops and aircraft were being sent overnight to North Dakota to assist state and local officials ahead of record flooding, as residents along the Red River nervously eyed shored-up dikes and levees.

Full story

Full text of Obama's weekly address after the jump

Remarks of President Barack Obama

Weekly Address

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Washington, DC

Even as we face an economic crisis which demands our constant focus, forces of nature can also intervene in ways that create other crises to which we must respond – and respond urgently. For the people of North and South Dakota and Minnesota who live along rivers spilling over their banks, this is one such moment.

Rivers and streams throughout the region have flooded or are at risk of flooding. The cities of Fargo and neighboring Moorhead are vulnerable as the waters of the Red River have risen. Thousands of homes and businesses are threatened.

That is why, on Tuesday, I granted a major disaster declaration request for the State of North Dakota and ordered federal support into the region to help state and local officials respond to the flooding. This was followed by an emergency declaration for the State of Minnesota. And we are also keeping close watch on the situation in South Dakota as it develops.

The Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency continue to coordinate the federal response. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is helping to oversee federal efforts and she remains in close contact with state officials. Acting FEMA administrator Nancy Ward has been in the region since yesterday to meet with folks on the ground and survey the area herself.

In addition, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is assisting in the emergency construction of levees. The Coast Guard is aiding in search and rescue efforts while the Department of Defense is helping to move people and supplies. Members of the National Guard have been activated and are on the scene as well.

Hospitals and nursing homes in the area are being evacuated and residents in poor health or with special needs are being transported to higher ground. Teams from the Department of Health and Human Services are aiding in this work. And the Red Cross is in place to provide shelter and supplies for folks in need.

It is also important for residents in these states to remain vigilant in monitoring reports on flood crests and to follow instructions from their state and local leaders in the event that evacuations become necessary.

My administration is working closely with Governors John Hoeven, Mike Rounds and Tim Pawlenty. And I’ve been meeting with Senators Byron Dorgan, Kent Conrad, and Amy Klobuchar, as well as Congressmen Earl Pomeroy and Collin Peterson, to pledge my support. I will continue to monitor the situation carefully. We will do what must be done to help in concert with state and local agencies and non-profit organizations – and volunteers who are doing so much to aid the response effort.

For at moments like these, we are reminded of the power of nature to disrupt lives and endanger communities. But we are also reminded of the power of individuals to make a difference.

In the Fargodome, thousands of people gathered not to watch a football game or a rodeo, but to fill sandbags. Volunteers filled 2.5 million of them in just five days, working against the clock, day and night, with tired arms and aching backs. Others braved freezing temperatures, gusting winds, and falling snow to build levees along the river’s banks to help protect against waters that have exceeded record levels.

College students have traveled by the busload from nearby campuses to lend a hand during their spring breaks. Students from local high schools asked if they could take time to participate. Young people have turned social networks into community networks, coordinating with one another online to figure out how best to help.

In the face of an incredible challenge, the people of these communities have rallied in support of one another. And their service isn’t just inspirational – it’s integral to our response.

It’s also a reminder of what we can achieve when Americans come together to serve their communities. All across the nation, there are men, women and young people who have answered that call, and millions of other who would like to. Whether it’s helping to reduce the energy we use, cleaning up a neighborhood park, tutoring in a local school, or volunteering in countless other ways, individual citizens can make a big difference.

That is why I’m so happy that legislation passed the Senate this week and the House last week to provide more opportunities for Americans to serve their communities and the country.

The bipartisan Senate bill was sponsored by Senator Orrin Hatch and Senator Ted Kennedy, a leader who embodies the spirit of public service, and I am looking forward to signing this important measure into law.

In facing sudden crises or more stubborn challenges, the truth is we are all in this together – as neighbors and fellow citizens. That is what brought so many to help in North Dakota and Minnesota and other areas affected by this flooding. That is what draws people to volunteer in so many ways, serving our country here and on distant shores.

Our thanks go to them today, and to all who are working day and night to deal with the disaster. We send them our thoughts, our prayers, and our continued assistance in this difficult time.

Thank you.

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. TCM

    two rivers; the one in Fargo, and the National Debt least the one in North Dakota will eventually subside...

    March 28, 2009 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  2. white independent

    At least pres Obama is on top of the situation, not like Bush during Katrina...I feel so sad for these people..we have been through devastating floods before too, and understand all too well what they feel and are facing..Please Pres Obama, stay on top of this and help these people, dont let them down like Bush did in Katrina...

    March 28, 2009 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  3. Isn't it amazing......

    Isn't it amazing what can be accomplished when people care enough to get out and DO something instead of scream at the government for help. And this is being done in single digit temperatures. Truyl amazing!!!!

    March 28, 2009 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  4. strong

    Obama's administration is keeping a eye on the situation..... is that adminisration by any chance fema?

    March 28, 2009 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  5. tiff of Lithia Springs

    I think it's sad that people have more concerns about marijuana issues that the safety of our fellow citizens new the Red River.

    March 28, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  6. A. Darton

    These people need our prayers, even if you don't have anyone to pray with, pray by yourself for them. I think the Lord will still hear your prayer, something Governor Palin much forgot about. I imagine alot of these people don't see things the way I do, but I'm not going to wish them failure.

    March 28, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  7. n, mpls

    I think people should just move away from the flood areas. This happens every year and they keep going back, only to receive aid that comes from our tax dollars and insurance money. There are plenty of other areas to live.

    March 28, 2009 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  8. worriedmom

    why doesn't he commit 1.5 billion a year to people like this in our country to rebuild instead of Pakistan!!!!

    March 28, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  9. khiph

    Take note Republican's this is how a real president handles business.

    March 28, 2009 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  10. A. Darton

    These people need our prayers, even if you don't have anyone to pray with, pray by yourself for them. I think the Lord will still hear your prayer, something Governor Palin must have forgotten about. I imagine alot of these people don't see things the way I do, but I will not wish them failure.

    March 28, 2009 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  11. Mel

    I have much more confidence in Obama;s ability to deal with this emergency than anything from the previous administration.

    March 28, 2009 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  12. steve

    The Republicans who are attacking Sec of State Clinton for stating that Guns and ammunition from the US is fueling the drug war in Mexico are very insensitive and reckless in their attack because they are only worried that their arm dealers and biggest supporter- NRA might be loosing money if the weapons illegally smuggled to Mexico is shut down.

    March 28, 2009 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  13. Survivor

    This happened about 12 years ago in the same area – it is truly horrifing to live in an area like this – really where do you go – you have all your money and community tied up and nowhere to go! just like those who experienced Katrina! we need to stop all political ranting and help those who need help (and who also obviously help themselves) even, yes even, those who are in Afghanistan and Pakistan – we must also turn the tide of terrorism just like the folks are trying to turn the flood waters if you do nothing you will pay the price "for sure"!

    And to you "snipers" out there who can do nothing but bash this President why don't you just get a "grip" and close the "lip!!!!

    March 28, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  14. tigerakabj

    I know the media doesn't want to go too long on the Katrina narrative. People might start remembering the Bush horror and who is responsbile for this current economic climate and we can't have that.

    Good job Obama. If the GOP's main philosophy is that the government (FEMA) is the problem, then they shouldn't be running it then (they get in there and prove it).

    March 28, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  15. Annie

    A President who actually sends in help before hand. How refreshing. And to the folks in ND, here's to hoping those flood waters recede before too much damage is wrought.

    March 28, 2009 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  16. GOP = Greedy Obstructionist Perverts!

    May God keep both the victims and rescuers in the palm of his hand, during this very trying time!

    March 28, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  17. PJP

    A Darton: I don;t think there is anyone, not that I know of and I sure don't, wishe anyone failure even people that are in flood areas. Where in the world did you get an idea like that? As for people praying together or alone, yes sure, the Lord does hear individual payers but the Word specially says, were two or more pray together there is even more power. Look it up for yourself, it's there!! People are looking for power in these days and times but they are not looking in the right places. When you look other than the power of God you are looking in the wrong place.

    March 28, 2009 12:28 pm at 12:28 pm |
  18. greg in jax

    in times like these,i am proud to be a progressive democrat who thinks of the wellfare of the collective we call the united states of america. my fellow countrymen need my help, and i am willing to offer anything that i can to help save their way of life. we all understand, that there is no place in our country that does not suffer at the hands of mother nature. so for some to say, forget them, they know this could happen its their own fault, they should move.. well the problem is,no matter where you live on this planet, you are truly at the mercy of mother nature, be it wildfires,hurricans, tornadoes, floods, freezing temperatures, blizzards,droughts... they could be you, and then you would be thankful that you live in a supportive collective called the united states of america... just saying... progressives rule!!

    March 28, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  19. Obama 08

    At least he's watching it, and prepared for action, not like Bush who was on another vacation in Crawford when Katrina hit New Orleans.

    March 28, 2009 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |

    At Least hes On it and Not Just worried about Iraq!

    March 28, 2009 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  21. annie - Palin 2012

    I have serious doubts if bo can deal with any of these rivers. Of course he can put the Red River victimis in fema camps and the Debt River he will just keep borrowing more money from sources we don't have to pay back money that we could not afford to borrow in the first place. Have dead fish give the $300,000 plus to the national debt that he took from countrywide that started the creation of this mess. Have dodd, bo, mccain and all the others give back campaign contribution they took from aig, countrywide, etc – apply it to the national debt – won't stop the Debt River but it might support a levy for a little while. Take back monies from acorn, HR1388 and universal healthcare – that would support another levy on the Debt River. Stop jet setting from tv show to tv show that would help a little bit. Stop serving $100 per pound beef at weekly parties, there's another little bit of help.

    March 28, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  22. Virginia Republican

    Has FEMA been called yet?

    March 28, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  23. carole

    This is a perfect example of what it is like to have a president
    who can do "more than one thing at a time".

    March 28, 2009 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  24. Santa Maria

    I get so sick of people who know nothing other than what the liberal media stuffed into their gullible ears about Katrina. One...those who stayed behind were either too stupid to listen to the warnings and go or two were planning on same grade a looting. The governor of the state was most responsible for those who were not moved. Maybe it is time to shut up about things you know nothing about. If Bush had waded through the water and saved everyone, you would still be complaining about something. That is the way liberals took the whitehouse...convince everyone that the world is falling apart. Here are the benefits...skyrocketing deficits, tumbling stock markets, rising unemployment...on an on...thanks to all of you who voted for Obama!

    March 28, 2009 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |