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'The last stand' against rising floodwaters

OXBOW, N.D. – It took big, yellow earth movers to get across the floodwaters. But instead of moving dirt, they were ferrying volunteers to help sandbag the home of Robert and Bridgette Startz. 

The couple's home in Oxbow, N.D. – just south of Fargo – was an island when we found it, and many of their neighbors had already been rescued via Coast Guard air boats from the rising Red River. But the Startzes and their three kids were staying put for now.

Image: Volunteers receive a lift to a sandbag filling point
Scott Olson / Getty Images
Volunteers receive a lift to a sandbag filling point on Thursday in Oxbow, North Dakota. 

"Kind of like an Alamo," said Robert Startz. "The last stand."

But if those sandbags fail to protect their house, the family is ready to leave at the first sign of water in the basement. Like most of the residents around Fargo we've met, they've endured a lot this week as they await what will almost certainly be a record crest of the Red River on Saturday.

The Red River had risen to 40.32 feet by early Friday – more than 22 feet above flood stage. It was also inches more than the previous high water marks – the Red hit 39.57 feet in 1997, and the historic record was 40.1 feet in 1897.

Image: Rising flood waters swamp North Dakota
VIDEO: Fargo fights record flooding

The National Weather Service said that the river was expected to crest between 41 and 42 feet by Saturday, but could reach 43 feet.

"We're just freezing. We're just ringing wet. We haven't showered in days," said Bridgette Startz. "It's just not a good situation."

Much worse that 1997

And despite parallels to the last major flood in 1997, Robert Startz says it's far worse this time.

"This is much, much greater than '97," he said. "It just pales in comparison."

The Startzes are worried, but grateful for the 400 school kids who have shown up to help. 

Volunteers are carried by a large earth mover
Leo Juarez, NBC News / Leo Juarez, NBC News
Volunteers are carried by a large earth mover towards the Startzes house in attempt to help sandbag it before the flood water rises any higher. 

Volunteers have come to the Fargo-Moorhead area by the thousands, in some cases driving hours to assist residents here because "they'd do it for us." 

The city asked for 2 million sandbags and they'll likely get that many. Whether it's enough to hold back the rising Red remains to be seen.