Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The elephant...

The elephant in the room?  Well actually its not... in the room.The elephant is outside my house.  But it is there nonetheless.  Every time I go to write the date of an event for March on my calendar, the elephant intrudes on my thoughts.  Should I even bother to write down the dates?  Will we be able to go?  Or will much of March as we have planned, unravel before our eyes, just like last year.

If you are from the area you know.  Or if you followed my blog last March you know... the name of the elephant is "Flood."  And Flood is reportedly once again making his presence known.  All you have to do is look around outside.  The mountainous snowdrifts that you can't see around when backing out of the driveway, or when creeping out into the intersection, are some of the tallest I've seen since childhood.

In March, the temperatures start to warm up.  As the temps rise, snow melts and starts to run off.  But the ground is still frozen.  So instead of seeping down into the ground, the water pools and collects, and puddles and streams anywhere it can find to spread out.  Much of it, empties into The Red River which divides our two communities, Moorhead and Fargo.

Last year, the river crested at a history making record of 40.8 feet above flood stage.  I blogged about it here, and here, and here, and most of the month of March.  We sandbagged and constructed a huge super dike along the coulee a block away from our house extending down through our backyards for miles.  The river overflows it's banks and then backs up into the coulee, threatening our homes. Even if the water does not flood our homes directly, the water overwhelms our lift stations, which can cause sewers to back up into our homes. Or if a power outage occurs, our sump pumps can shut off again leaving water to "seep" through the basement into our homes.

So for nearly two weeks last March we filled sandbags around the clock.  School let out, colleges emptied their classes and volunteers arrived from surrounding communities to pitch in.  The national guard set up post outside my house and the neighbor across the street and I kept a constant supply of cookies and beverages and hot foods going out to them.  But then the Red Cross showed up and took over feeding everyone so we could go fill sandbags and work on the dikes.

The saga seemed never ending.  Adding insult to injury, a blizzard descended upon us shutting down operations for a bit.  Our hospitals and nursing homes were evacuated.  The national news crews circled our block as well as our town.  We were both exhausted mentally and physically, but buoyed by the outpouring of help and support coming from everywhere.

We were shocked the day the code red went out telling us to evacuate.  I still maintain, that largely because of the images of Hurricane Katrina victims staying in their houses, we all listened and left our homes when asked.  The national guard remained.  They walked the dikes and watched for holes or weakening walls.  The force of the water rams and batters the bags of sand.  The tiniest of holes can lead to a major breach which could be disastrous.

In the end, many homes were lost to the flood.  However, many MORE homes were saved.  Almost instantly our community leaders began looking to formulate plans for permanent flood protection.  At the cost of billions of dollars however, no perfect plan has been devised.  Too many of the plans call for a diversion of the river, which would in turn wipe out many communities further to the north of us.  Plus, its clear the solution won't come quickly enough for this year.

So we wait.  For the temperatures to rise.  For the sun to come out. For the water to run.

For the elephant named flood to be heaved off our collective chests, so that we may breathe freely again.


  1. Jackie, if only it were that simple :)

  2. Vicky, I hope some quirk or unforseen thing in nature prevents a repeat of last year. That sounds like back-breaking work. Water damage is almost worse than fire damage.

    Have you done any things personally to prepare for the same eventuality? - like getting photos and books out of basement?

    Has the city posted about their plans to protect your homes?

    What a concern!

  3. Hopefully there will be a slow thaw but it's hard to predict what lies ahead ... we want spring to come but not too quickly

  4. I read about those floods last year in Minnesota and North Dakota. No fun!!!

  5. Vicky, I DO remember this from last year and praying and praying for you all to be okay. I so hope this melts slowly and the rivers can handle it.

    Thank you for checking on me and being my faithful friend!



  6. Oh boy, what a story you told. I sure hope everything works out for you. That mountain of snow is amazing. All the best in March.

  7. Hi Vicky and thanks for the visit to my blog. Yes, I am a fellow Minnesotan from the west central area. We have been hearing the same forecasts of the "elephant" getting ready to rear his nasty head again this spring. I wish the best for you and your neighborhood once again - it seems like your area never gets a break. My sister lives near Barnesville and teaches at MSU so I am familiar with all the area has gone through. I heard on the news that volunteers are already preparing sand bags up there.

  8. Bonnie, yes, I'm sure I'll end up blogging all that we do and how it goes :)

    Susan exactly :) will you be affected by the water too?

    Eileen, we heard they were covered on the national news and I missed most of it as I was too busy working outside.

    Robynn, so good to see you here and have you drop in :) Yes, you were such a huge support and all those prayers were so appreciated.

    Mark, it really was a story unfolding each day :) Thanks for the well wishes!

    Marsha, welcome! Yes, the prep. starts Monday. Are you affected by snow melt where you live? It seems so many parts of the state are affected.

  9. Yikes! Praying that everything is ok! I remember praying so hard for you and your family during all the flooding:) Please keep us posted as the snow melts!

  10. Oh dear, I sincerely hope and pray that the elephant is only a shadow of itself this year and the extra water will not cause destruction.

  11. Oh no I pray things go better this year. That you don't have to go through all that and NO homes are lost!!!!!

  12. Every year I read and hear about the Red River and the flooding. Now I can say I know someone that is affected by this spring flood.

    I will be thinking of you Vicky in March and praying that you all will have an easier spring season for flooding.

  13. WoW! I thought we had bad flooding here! We have missed 30 days of school due to floods and snow. I hope this March is much kinder than those of the past!

  14. Every time it's snowed, I think of the flooding to come. I was so fortunate to not have it in my home, but watching so many others lose theirs is heartbreaking. Wish I could snap my fingers and have it disappear for you!

  15. Oh man! This is so bad! I hope their plan to divert the water, materializes without anything being wiped off the map. And real soon!


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