Minot flood recovery: Progress, but more to do

Jun 25, 2012

As Minot marks the first anniversary of the record Souris River flood, state and local officials say while the city – and the whole Souris Valley– has made great progress, there’s a lot more to do. The story from Prairie Public's Dave Thompson.

A FEMA official who was in Minot for the 2011 flood says he remembers being in Minot the day before the sirens blew – telling 12-thousand people they needed to evacuate.

“I stood on top of the levee," said Willie Nunn, who was FEMA's federal coordinating officer. "I went around with the Corps of Engineers, and we looked at what was the potential to come. The Corps guy said to me, 'You stand on top of the levee, look about a foot above your head, look out at the community, and that's where the water mark is gonna be.' Sure enough, that's where the water mark was.”

Nunn says the next day, he flew over the city and the county, and saw the amount of water and the devastation of the flood.

Now, one year later, Nunn says the city has made remarkable progress.

"It was very encouraging to see how this is being redone," said Nunn. "I saw debris that had to be removed, but people are working hard to get that redone. It's very encouraging to see the resiliency of the folks.”

Nunn says Minot has the ability to snap back from the disaster – and to be better. And he says FEMA will help in any way it can.

But some question the speed of the recovery.

"Slowly, painfully slowly" is how state Rep. Andy Maragos (R-Minot) describes the pace of recovery. "A lot of homes are being torn down, because they're just not salvageable. It just seems to me that we're walking in baby steps instead of adult steps. I just don't know if that's normal, for the kind of disaster and tragedy that we've suffered."

Maragos says the city also needs money for infrastructure. And he says a housing shortage created some unexpected problems.

"I know we could have had a lot of contractors come to Minot that wanted to be a part of the rebuilding effort," Maragos said. "But there was no place to put 'em."

Maragos says he expects the 2013 Legislature will be asked for help. And others say Congress and the federal government will have to do more.

"We're up to about $540 million in the federal assistance programs," said Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND). "We're gonna have to do a lot more."

The officials say permanent housing for displaced Minotresidents will be a challenge. About 13-hundred families are still living in FEMA trailers – and they face a year-end deadline to find permanent housing.