Thursday, June 30, 2011

A personal flood timeline, part two

Monday June 20th

v Mayor Curt Zimbelman announces that six inches of rain which fell in already saturated Saskatchawan would fill the Souris and Des Lacs Rivers to historic proportions which the preventative dams and reservoirs built north of Minot after 1976 would be unable to contain. The largest flood in Minot’s history was coming.

v Terri and I spend Monday cleaning out our basement. I spend Monday night painting a room in our basement to seal out leaking groundwater.

v In the evening our friend Dan, a plumber, comes over to help us re-hook up our washer and dryer and ends up helping us move them (and a refrigerator and freezer and water softener) out of our basement to our main level. Dan replaces our oatmeal-filled sock with a professional plug in our basement drain.

Tuesday June 21st

v I go to church to begin work on my weekly sermon, having not yet heard about the Mayor’s announcement about the imminent flood. Facebook and the news is jumping with activity as a second mandatory evacuation is announced for Wednesday night.

v At about 9 am Howard Rodgers (a wise church leader) calls and tells me to go home to help my family prepare for the coming flood. I go home, prepared to move the rest of the stuff out of my basement, confident that flooding would only affect houses immediately adjoining the river channel (we live four blocks away).

v As the magnitude of the coming flood begins to hit home for me, I spend the late morning finding available friends to help us move everything on our main floor either out of our house or to our second floor and attic. 10+ friends help us at different points of the day to move half our furniture to church Sunday School classrooms (our church building is high and dry), our garage stuff (which hadn’t even gone through my mind until a friend mentioned it) to our former youth building at church and everything else up to higher ground in our house. Janet Rodgers carefully wraps up all our dishes, china and food and stows them in our attic. Around midnight Greg Bledsoe and his brother Aaron remove all the electrical outlets and devices from our basement.

v Wade and Dawn Talley graciously take our sons (ages ten and six) to live with their family for two days (joining their family of 10) while Terri and I focus on our evacuation.

v Colin and Shannon Lovdahl, again, temporarily adopt our dog Lexie and take her to live with them on their farm in Palermo. Hundreds of pets would be homeless soon as makeshift animal shelters are set up.

v Minot has a sudden rush on cardboard boxes and Rubbermaid bins. Menards is sold out. I procure the last seven available from Walmart. Most evacuees do not have sufficient containers or time to carefully pack their belongings for movement and storage. Things are hurriedly piled and/or transported pell mell.Finding all our belongings after the evacuation lifts will itself require Herculean effort.

v Terri packs up and hauls out clothes for our family sufficient for a couple of weeks. I remember to take my best suit in preparation for a wedding happening in four days. Two days before the wedding, I realize that I forgot to pack my black dress shoes. Knowing that I can’t recover them in time, I put out a Facebook plea for size 10 black dress shoes and within hours have many pairs to choose from. Mike Milkey’s become the chosen pair and prove so comfortable that I threaten to keep them after the flood.

v At about 2 am Terri and I arrive at church, exhausted yet still running on adrenaline. Terri sleeps under one of our son’s blankets on the couch in the church library. I sleep on the couch in the counseling room under a blanket which smells like livestock and motor oil that had been used to cushion furniture for the move.

Wednesday June 22

v In the morning I arrive back at the house to hurriedly move the rest of our things up to the second floor and pack some needful items for the evacuation. It is announced that the 10 pm evacuation time has moved to 4 pm. Mid-morning I intend on going over to help move final things out of Sandy Sander’s house (which would later become almost completely submerged in the flood) when I hear that the evacuation has been moved to 1 pm. I call Bob Hargrave (who the previous day removed our new boiler and hot water heater from our basement) who comes over and, with tears in his eyes, removes the breakers from our breaker box.

v Still confident that our house can stay dry, I drive to B & D Grocery (which is closed) then to the Broadway Miracle Mart to buy bleach (which they have) and duct tape (which they don’t) in order to seal my lone basement window. There I meet Josh Hawkins (our church I.T. director who later would become our flood recovery point man and whose house also became inundated with water) who I take back to my house so he can move one of our vehicles to get it out of the path of the flood. I tape up my window to keep water out of the basement, empty two gallons of bleach on our basement floors (to counteract the bad water which the river would bring in) and help Terri pack up the last of our temporary clothes. At 1 pm the evacuation sirens sound and we head to the church.

v In the evening, we pick up our boys from the Talleys and travel about twenty miles out of Minot to Des Lacs to take up residence with the Wagners – again.

Thursday June 23

v Reports all morning come in of flood waters exceeding the height of the city’s levees. Burlington, to the west of Minot, is the first sign of serious flooding. Their citizens continue round the clock sandbagging in an attempt to save parts of their city. Eventually, they would lose that fight.

v Throughout the day, water levels on Minot’s northwest side rise precipitously. Despite the valiant attempts to keep businesses like Harley’s Conoco and Arrowhead shopping center and churches like Christ Lutheran, Little Flower Catholic church and Bible Fellowship church dry, they all take significant water. Eventually Longfellow Elementary school is moderately flooded, Lincoln Elementary is flooded beyond recovery and the fight to save Ramstad Middle School with a massive dike proves futile. Flood waters border Minot State University on the north and are held from inundating north Broadway with a massive north-south dike (for which many homes west of Broadway are sacrificed).

v At church I begin work on a revised ‘flood focused’ worship service to include testimonies of God’s grace in the midst of loss, fear and suffering and a shortened message highlighting God’s sovereign power and heaven as our true home in light of the flood.

v During the day a friend calls me and tells me how my house could be sacrificed in the aftermath of the flood to create a new, wider flood plain for the city. Without flood insurance, the prospect of being financially ruined through this ordeal hits home. I call Terri and honestly share with her the grim possibilities. In tears she says, “But my mom’s portrait!” – referring to a large, beautiful painting of her deceased mother which hung in our dining room and was still in the house.

v In the late afternoon, I drive into my neighborhood (still dry at this point), enter my house and with lightening speed find the picture and retrieve an heirloom glass which has been in my family for more than a century and make my way out.

v I drive to Des Lacs, pondering on the way that my house, since I sealed off the window, could present too much resistance to the current if the water rises quickly and be moved off its foundation which would rendered it condemned. (I’m not an engineer. These were simply the thoughts going through my head.)After consulting with a few friends, I meet up with Doug Wagner back in Minot and we make one last excursion into my house to open the basement window and secure Terri’s jewelry and address book.

Friday June 24th

v Flood waters top the dikes to the north and east of my neighborhood and slowly flood Eastwood Park. By day’s end I am confident that my basement is full of river water, and I pray that it does not go so high as to destroy my new kitchen cabinets. Most agonizing of all is not being able to get near my neighborhood to see the effects of the water on my house. The unknown (which would continue for weeks) is torturous and continues to stretch our trust in God. Unlike other natural disasters like a hurricane or tornado where the damage can quickly be surveyed, floods keep one in suspense for weeks.

v At church I work on the wedding I’m performing at Trinity the following day. In the afternoon, Lindsey, the bride to be, shows us with her family to decorate the church. Corey, the groom to be, has to make the difficult decision about whether or not to evacuate his house which is on the edge of the evacuation zone. Looking south down the street from his house, he can see the water rising.

v At 5 pm I lead the wedding rehearsal at church. The original rehearsal dinner is cancelled due to restaurant closures. Pizza Ranch remains open, so the wedding party heads there to celebrate.

Saturday June 25th

v River levels continue to rise to historic proportions, by-passing the 1881 record of 1558 ft. above sea level. By Sunday the river would crest at 1561.72. Preparations for the wedding engross the morning.The city announces that Minot’s drinking water supply may be contaminated. Breaks in the city’s submerged water pipes begin to occur. At 3 pm the wedding commences and proves to be a wonderful distraction to the flood. After the wedding we tape off our sinks and water faucet and hang ‘contaminated’ signs on all church water receptacles in preparation for the service the next morning.The wedding reception is suddenly interrupted by a tornado siren as a massive thunderstorm rolls over Minot and expels a downpour on our already waterlogged city, adding insult to injury. As if the week wasn’t exciting enough already.

v Due to the water situation and driving restrictions in Minot (since flood dikes have cut our city in half leaving only one, congested north-south route) our church elders decide to hold our service the following morning in two locations: a small service in the Wamhoff home on Minot Air Force base for all north side families and a larger service at our church facility for all south side families. Additionally, Sunday would be the first time we would video-livestream our service on our website. Due to over crowding, we’d been talking about multi-site as an option for some time. Now the flood would give us an opportunity to test it out.


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Mrs. Lopez said...

wow, great job keeping all the dates/times straight! I have begun to try to write some of it out and I can't remember when anything happened.

Love the oatmeal filled sock drain plug :)