Rebuilding Dreams 1

Jun 6, 2013

Two years ago – Minot and the whole Souris River valley were hit hard by record flooding – brought on by a wet winter and spring, with a heavy rain that was an exclamation point.

The city continues to work on recovery from the devastating flood. In the first of a series, Prairie Public’s Dave Thompson updates how the city is recovering.

It was the new flood of record for the Souris valley. And it easily dwarfed any previous record.

“What the flood that we experienced in 2011 – both in peak flow and in volune – was 2 to 2 ½ times the previous peak<' said Greg Wiche with the US Geological Service. "It puts that flood so far out there. It isn’t just a little larger – it’s way outside the bounds of anything we had seen.”

Wiche says it began that winter – with snow after snow, setting records. Then heavy rain hit in northwestern North Dakota, as well as Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

“We seemed to bounce along for about 50 to 60 days, and we just could not get relief long enough to get the system back down," said Wiche. "So then by early June, when the big rains came in southern Saskatchewan and northwest North Dakota, there was no storage left on the landscape, or in the reservoirs, or in the system. It was a matter of using up everything you had in reserve. Wetlands were full, sloughs were full, reservoirs were full. And so you had it all stacked against people living along the Souris.”

The numbers tell the story. 2800 homes damaged or destroyed. 12-thousand people evacuated. Two years later, there are still reminders of the massive flood. But the city is getting back on its feet.

“From 2011, there was only one way for the valley to go – and that was up,” said Minot Mayor Curt Zimbelman. “People really dug in and done a tremendous job of rebuilding. We’ve got a long ways to go. I think the people are feeling better  about where we’re at, where our community’s at. You can just feel it in the air, that we’re starting to get ahead of this thing a little bit.”

Zimbelman says about 1800 homes have been rebuilt, and another 300 are still being worked on.

"Then there are those homes that haven’t been touched since the flood., Zimbelman said  "And this summer, we’re going to have to do something with those homes.”

And that means a round of buyouts.

“The state Legislature this round has generously given us about 60 million dollars to do more engineering, and to do acquisitions, so we can acquire some of these homes  that people knew they were in the diversion  or they were in an area that we wanted – we’re gonna need for the flood control project.”

That project will consist of a diversion, to straighten out some of the river channels through town, as well as a diking system. Zimbelman says it will be phased in. He says the city is going ahead with a plan  to build the dikes to protect Minot from the 27-thousand-400 cubic feet per second flow from the 2011 flood. Zimbelman says the engineering firm the city hired to look at flood control also looked at scaling the dike size back.

“But what we found is – there’s very little savings from moving the size of the flood down, just because of all the pumps and all the things that you have to have that go along with the project.”

Zimbelman says the major challenge facing Minot is housing. Already, housing was at a premium, because of the oil industry. The flood just added to the problem.  But Zimbelman says having the oil boom was also a positive for the city.

“Had we not had the oil boom, I think things would have been tougher for us," Zimbelman said." That at least kept the economy going. “

Zimbelman says he believes people will see that, over the next several months, the city will catch up with the needs especially for low-to-moderate income housing. But he says there is work to be done.