Ten years ago, I lived in Grand Forks, ND. It was where I went to college, met my husband, and celebrated our first days as husband and wife. In April of 1997, after 8 major blizzards, 16 days off of school, and an ice storm, we had a flood. It was a doozie.
Our river, the Red, flows north. One of only a few in the world that do (the Nile is another), it often gets caught up due to ice floes that don't melt north of your own town. Since GF is located on the glacial Lake Agassiz plane (in prehistoric times, it was a lake bottom), there is lots and lots of flat land for the water to spread out upon.
Unfortunately, that included our town. In 1997, the river flooded, displacing everyone in the cities of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, MN, including me. I distinctly remember driving through foot-deep water to run back to my in-laws house just before evacuating, after a frantic call from my mother in law, who was convinced she left the iron on. (She didn't.) When we got home, weeks later, their house had 7.5 feet of sewage in the basement. Many homes were completely underwater. A big part of downtown had burned to the ground. Garbage piled 8 feet high lined the berms of every street for months, and we worked our fingers to the bone to scrub and clean and try to salvage what little we could (which wasn't much--flood muck doesn't come off.) Thankfully, no lives were lost. Until Hurricane Katrina, it was the greatest displacement of people there has been in American history. Though it pales in comparison to the devastation of Katrina, it still made a great impact on all those whose lives it touched.
This morning, I was able to hear all about it once again on NPR. If you have time, and an interest, please take a listen, or read more about it here. Grand Forks will always be close to my heart, and it did bring a few tears to my eyes, remembering the fear and uncertainty, and the way they people pulled together and helped each other to survive and to build a better future.
This past year, there was another record-setting crest of the river. But this time, thanks to the work of the people of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, the engineers, the builders, and the new, controversial dike, not one sandbag was necessary.
For the time being, a victory.
Congratulations, Grand Forks and East Grand Forks. We knew you could do it.