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East First Street resident is 'overwhelmed' by sandbagging response

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The river has been part of Lloyd Fanum's life for as long as he can remember, dating back to when he was in the Merchant Marines and now the Coast Guard Auxiliary. And, he has lived along the Mississippi River in East Hastings for 30 years.

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Before this year, he has been a part of two Hastings floods - 1997 and 2001. The City of Hastings came with sand bags those years, too, but that effort paled in comparison to what occurred last week when Fanum received sandbags, sand, and the volunteer help to protect his house from the rising river, which is reaching closer and closer to his home.

"I keep saying I was overwhelmed," said Fanum Tuesday morning in his large family room overlooking the river.

Fanum keeps close track of the river and what happens along it. When he realized his house was probably going to need some protection and read about the Bless Hastings effort in the newspaper, he called John Mitchem, who was coordinating the effort.

On Friday, the city dropped off truck loads of sand, new sandbags, chairs and water.

The effort started at 8 a.m. Saturday morning at Christ's Family Church.

"At 9 a.m., they were here - 150 volunteers," said Fanum. "It went as smooth as can be. In two hours, they were 90 to 95 percent done. "For someone like me who is getting up there in age, and can't do it, this was so generous."

The volunteers placed a four-foot high wall of sandbags around the Fanum home. Fanum actually had no way out of the yard until a neighbor removed several bags by the mailbox and front sidewalk.

"When they interviewed me, I kept saying I was overwhelmed," he said. "(You) talk about neighbors helping someone they don't know ..."

Fanum is now doing his part, too, to keep the water out of the house. He has two dewatering pumps to operate if the water begins seeping into the area between the sandbag wall and the house. During the 1997 and 2001 floods, that was a 24-hour operation. He does not have a basement, so he is not worried about water getting in the house that way.

"The pumps pump the water out of the area and, with the help of the garden hose, push it back into the river," he said.

While some would consider the potential of flood a hassle at the least, Fanum is at the river "for the duration," he said, with a smile.

He loves the river. There are the different birds and animals he sees during the seasons. When Fanum was in the Coast Guard, the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers were among those waterways he patrolled. He helped to save five lives and assisted with the saving of another.

Now, he is a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary, and does some volunteer reporting for them.

As he visited Tuesday morning, Fanum suddenly said, "Look, there's an errant buoy."

A buoy had become dislodged in the river and was quickly moving in the current. He contacted the auxiliary to let them know where the buoy appeared to be heading. A member of their unit would later intercept it.

It is one small way to help the river and those connected with it.

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