June 23, 2011

FLOOD WATER SURGING in Minot, North Dakota.

Plus, how you can help.

UPDATE: A reader sends this report:

I am an officer in the United States Air Force, stationed at Minot Air Force Base in Minot ND. I saw you mentioned briefly the flooding here, and thought you might like some insight on the situation.

First of all, if you can’t tell from the pictures, this a tragedy of almost unthinkable proportions. The Souris River carves a winding path through an otherwise flat terrain. The river valley is relatively shallow, about 150′ lower than the prairie on either side, and maybe 2 to 3 miles wide. The river is also crooked, and makes a horseshoe shape. The town of Minot straddles the river, with roughly 1/4 of the town on the north hill, 1/4 of the town on the south hill, and 1/2 the town in some part of the valley. The Air Force base is about 10 miles north of town, and is safe from the flooding. The rising waters have of course overtopped the levees, and the prediction is that by the end of the weekend the water will rise another 7 or so feet. The city, assisted by the national guard and many volunteers is doing everything they can to create a system of secondary levees, but I fear that most of the lowlands are a complete a write-off. The levees, in addition to being overtopped, are predicted to fail this weekend. The worst part is, now that there is significant water behind the levees, the river must recede below flood levels before the city can begin pumping it out. According to the Army Corps of Engineers, the river will not begin to recede, in a best case scenario, until July 10th. If it rains at all, and thunderstorms are in the forecast, this could be pushed back.

12,000 people have been displaced, and hundreds more are in a state of voluntary evacuation. Hundreds, if not thousands, of houses will be destroyed. I live on the South Hill, and thankfully, my home appears safe from the flooding. However, many of my friends and co-workers are not so fortunate. People have made their best efforts to move their belongings and prized possessions to higher ground, but everyday seems to bring worse news. 3 days in a row the predicted crest level has been higher than the previous day. Friends that two days ago thought they were safe found out yesterday that they were not. By the time this thing is over, perhaps a third of the town’s homes and businesses will be destroyed, along with the vital infrastructure that links the north hill and south hill neighborhoods.

The only silver lining to this disaster has been the response of the community. I am not from this part of the country (I hail from the East Coast) and nowhere that I have lived has ever faced this kind of adversity. But I would be proud to call this town my home. I have not seen one person whine or complain. I have not heard one hopeless person ask when the government or FEMA would rescue them. The town mobilized itself days ahead of the impending disaster and began planning for the worst; secondary levees and sandbag walls went up with breathtaking speed, and thousands of homes were evacuated without incident. Think of it as the anti-Katrina. Once the townspeople saw that their worst fears were about to be realized, and their homes and livelihoods destroyed, instead of giving up, they have only redoubled their efforts to save what can be saved. Their stoic determination in the face of absolute catastrophe amazes me.

I think liberals view conservatives and libertarians as some sort of Randian caricature: every man for himself, all government is evil, etc. But this, to me, is closer to the truth. Not a community that shuns the government, but a community that is willing to fight for itself rather than wait for the federal government to show up with a checkbook. It will probably take years, but I have no doubt that this place will rebuild itself.

I’m surprised this has gotten so little media attention.

UPDATE: Rand Simberg emails that there’s no opportunity to make political hay: “It’s like Nashville. They’re self-sufficient white people, who make the others (e.g., New Orleans) look bad. To hell with ’em.”

He’s so cynical about our news media.

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