Betty Reports: The Floods of Fargo
First-hand reports of the destruction and the outpouring of support in the aea
We’ve watched the coverage on TV for the past weeks as the Red River rose and rose and then spilled and flooded Fargo, ND, and neighboring Minnesota towns. Our hearts go out to those who’ve lost homes, businesses and possessions, but are bolstered by the courage and generosity so many have shown in this battle against Mother Nature and the ensuing cleanup.
We wanted to hear firsthand from women in the area to give us more insight into what it’s like to be there, living in the midst of it. So we spoke with two local women to hear their accounts.
Kari Averett, 23, lives in Moorehead, Minn., which is right across the river from Fargo. She and her husband have no children yet, which she says “is probably a good thing right now.”
Here’s her story:
My husband and I have lived on the Red River for just under two years. We had no idea how to get ourselves ready for something like this. The last time there was a flood in 1997, I was in 6th grade, and I don’t remember much of what went on.
(As the waters rose) It was hard to filter through all of the ideas and thoughts to get any real answers (about what we should do). Everyone seemed to be a hydrologist when you asked them about their thoughts on the flood. It was kind of funny. My phone was constantly ringing with friends and family trying to do their best to give us advice and what they “heard” on the radio and TV.
We started sandbagging on Friday, March 20, after I was done with work. The days are a little bit of a blur. It is hard to separate what happened on what day, but by the following Wednesday or Thursday we had a dike that was about 15-18 feet wide and about 9 feet tall. It was massive and a bit scary to think that anything could get past it.
The water had been seeping through the bottom of the dike for a few days, and it was coming in faster all the time. We had five sum pumps going and one gas pump, pumping 200 gallons a minute to try to catch up.
Thursday was the hardest day of them all. At about 6 p.m. we called Code Red and within minutes there were so many fire fighters and county workers that came. It was a dash to get every last item upstairs, including our washer and dryer and our furnace, and out of reach from the water that was trickling in through the walk-out door. As this went on, there was a large semi parked in front of our driveway with about five pallets of sandbags and a line that reached from the semi to the back yard. There were friends and family and so many people that we have never met throwing the sandbags as fast as they could to make a contingency dike behind our first dike and one from our house to the first dike to protect the water from leaving our yard so as not to reach our neighbors.
As the tears kept coming I tried to help, but it was shock that made me stand in place. I couldn’t believe how the community came together. The town came together like a family to help anyone and everyone and just thinking about it brings me to tears.
We pulled the pumps at 5 a.m. on Friday as it just got to be too much, and we couldn’t keep up. The river won and we now have about 7 feet of it in our basement. We left our house at about 7 and we are now staying with family until we can get back in.
Since then, we have pumped the rest of the water out (it went down quite a bit on its own), and now we are in to the demolition stage. It was pretty crazy though because our flooring was floating when could finally get far enough down the stairs to look at things. There is dirt/mud everywhere and we are starting to rip up the wood floor and tear out all of the drywall and the studs. It is really sad because we just finished a bathroom down there that had the nicest tiled shower and tiled floor, and I am pretty sure there is no way of saving it. We also have to take out our door and the big picture windows because all of the wood around them is warped and no good anymore. The same goes for our fireplace. We also plan to fill in the wall that has the door and windows and completely close in the basement and get rid of the walk-out so that we don’t have to worry about sandbagging so high next time.
The items that were brought upstairs were never touched by the water, although it was close. We are very fortunate not to have lost the upstairs and the rest of our belongings as well.
I still can’t thank the people enough for the HARD work they put in to help us, and it is such a sad feeling that it was just too much. I am praying for everyone that is still fighting off the flood and hope that they win.
Andrea Klein-Pieterick, 36, lives in Fargo and is a manager in Operations for Microsoft. She has two daughters, ages 9 and 8. While her home hasn’t been damaged much, it has taken a tremdous effort to stave off the waters. She recounts the amazing efforts to help one another in the area.
It’s not every day you see a back hoe driving down a fairway on the golf course near your home! There were so many volunteers helping – we had hundreds of people filling and passing sandbags. On Tuesday they announced it was going to go another foot higher, so all my neighbors went out to sandbag more. We did raise the wall another foot and it held the water back! Let’s hope it does the same if we get this projected second crest in the middle of April, thanks to another 10 inches of snow we got this week.
There have been a number of times this past winter I have wondered why I live in Fargo, especially after several weeks of sub zero temps and dozens of inches of snow.
(While fighting the flood) our volunteer count in the Rose Creek neighborhood was getting low, though we had two driveways full of sandbags. We didn’t have enough people to create a strong line of sandbaggers. Then, a bus full of people from Paynesville pulled up to the neighborhood and started filing out, one after another. We were not only able to strengthen our line, but build another one.
Words cannot express the gratitude one feels to get help from a group of strangers, and watch them pitch in to try help save our neighborhood and community. They brought with them a positive attitude, a lot of hard work and even some occasional laughs.
I realized when they said goodbye that I had the answer to my question why I live here. Though we have snow, cold (and an occasional flood!), it is the character of the people such as those from Paynesville that make it all worth it.