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  1. 1997 Grand Forks Flood 20th Anniversary

    Friday, April 18th, 1997. The dikes in the Riverside and Lincoln Park neighborhoods began to fail. Mandatory evacuations began in those areas before the sun came up. The streets began to fill with filthy Red River floodwater, either from the breeched dikes or through the storm sewer system. The mass exodus from town began and would accelerate on Saturday, as the water treatment plant was compromised, which eliminated the city's source of potable water. About 4pm Saturday, a fire broke out downtown. The water system had no pressure, so firefighters could not put out the fire. It would consume 11 buildings downtown. Me, my mother and our cat fled to Minot, ND to stay with relatives. My father, then an employee of the Grand Forks Health Department, stayed behind to help fight the flood. When I returned about two weeks later, there was one or two restaurants open and they were using paper plates and plastic silverware because the water still wasn't safe to drink or cook with. During the next several months, I consumed a lot of Salvation Army and Red Cross meals (pretty good, btw), used a lot of waterless hand sanitizer and port-a-potties, helped assemble cleaning kits for people to clean up their homes, gave away big bags of ice to people who needed it and tried to put my life and routines back together. My family's home only sustained damage to the basement. Of course, that was where the electrical box, washer, dryer and furnace were located, which means they were all ruined and needed to be replaced. So the three of us and our cat were crammed into a hotel room for several weeks until we could get the electrical box and furnace replaced (it was a cold and sometimes rainy spring). I don't know who was happier to go home, me or my cat! :-) Gradually, life returned to normal. But for those who lost everything they owned, it would take 10 to 15 years to get their lives back to what they were on April 18th, 1997. I cannot believe it has been 20 years. Time flies I guess. God bless those who took in flood victims. God bless our Congressional team (Sens. Conrad and Dorgan & Rep. Pomeroy) for fighting hard for this community when the future was on the line. God bless President Clinton for visiting our community and using your influence to get us the help we needed. And God bless those Americans who generously gave their time, money and effort to help us pick up the pieces. All of you made a difference. And we thank you.
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