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the flood

This is a 1969 photo of my family home in Minot, ND. My parents, sisters and I lived in a neighborhood  adjacent to the serpentine Mouse River which loops down from Canada and back again. That year it carried heavier-than-usual snow melt. The weather forecasters gave us two weeks to move out. So in eighty-degree spring weather everyone who lived in the valley, about 1/3 of the town, moved all their belongings to higher ground.
As predicted, the Mouse flowed over her banks. Our basement filled with water that reached 18 inches high on the main floor. It stayed for two weeks and then receded, leaving behind river sludge, dead fish and my pink bedroom carpet which had soaked free of the glue that held it to the basement floor. There was no electricity in our watery homes so gas heaters were used to dry out the dank remains. The flood left behind a pall of depression. It was the worst flood since 1881.
Now Minot is again under water. This flood is nearly seven feet higher than the one in 1969 and four feet higher than 1881. In many cases only the tops of roofs are visible from above, including the shopping center where I bought groceries when visiting Minot just two weeks ago. Our old house is undoubtedly submerged by this flood. (My parents wisely moved to a hill).
Why this disaster? Heavy snowfall in Canada, for one. The dams in North Dakota and Saskatchewan are filled to capacity. In the days preceding the flood it rained six inches in Canada. Water had to be released from the dam above Minot at an earth-rumbling 28,000 cfs to avoid failure of the dam. With less than 48 hours’ notice, 11,000 people moved out of their homes and businesses. Some packed only a few things and hoped for the best. Others emptied their homes of everything, including furnaces, carpet, appliances, cabinet doors. According to the Minot Daily News, only 375 of 4,000 homes have flood insurance. Many homes will be a total loss.
Three weeks later, the river is dropping by mere inches a day. At that rate it will take a long while for the water to disappear. My dad tells me that the town is beginning to smell terrible–imagine ninety degree weather, rotting wallboard and food left behind. It will be hard to get things dried out by winter–and cold weather arrives early, usually by October.
Minot is a beautiful little city. It has music in the parks, a university, nice people. Now it is in a mess of trouble. My heart breaks for Minoters who have to go through this.
Donations are being accepted at the Center for Community Giving and the Mid-Dakota Chapter of the Red Cross. Please help if you can.
All my best,


2 Responses to “the flood”

  1. Jay Wilde says:

    I was stationed at Minot AFB from 1967 to 1969. I remember the flooding of the city at that time. A lot of us from the base helped some of the residents evacuate, and get out as much of their belongings as possible. Thanks for your photograph.

  2. Thanks so much for getting in touch with me. We were definitely in Minot at the same time, watching the same flood.

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