Residents north of West Fargo fighting, surviving
Hidden back behind the Sheyenne River, just south of where it is joined with the Maple, is an area where families have made their homes for years.
Familiar names, such as Forness, Duggan, Smith or Roers, joined by new families like the Kuhns, have made this area a safe haven.
This week, however, its an area that has become overwhelmed with a sea of floodwater, as it has four times since 1993. Access to the area is limited to a precarious walk across a railroad bridge, with linesmen driving a couple of trucks back and forth making sure that there are no accidents.
Everywhere you look, there is water. Full of silt, some trash, and ice cold, it runs wherever it wants.
Ted Roers will be the first person to tell you hes a glutton for punishment.
In 1997, Roers and his family were at the center of the public eye, fighting the floodwaters during the Flood of the Century.
Just nine years later, hes at it again.
Waters from the Maple and Sheyenne Rivers, which confluence just north of his rural home off of Cass County Road 17, have swirled their way into his backyard, over an earthen dike, and into an outbuilding on his land.
I checked it this (Monday) morning at about a quarter to 9, sat down for about 10 minutes, thinking everything was good, and by 9 or so it was coming right over the top of the dike. We had a low spot in the dike that we tried to sandbag, but it broke right through, Roers said. Its just a barn. Its not bad in the house.
A second ring of sandbags protected the Roers home from the water. Though the family house was only accessible by boat by late Monday morning, the familys only problem in the main home was seepage in the basement.
Normally, an average winter wont have much of an effect on this area, neighbor Gary Duggan said. But, when an entire winters worth of snow melts in just a matter of three days, the water has to go somewhere.
Im really surprised, he said. Ive been here for more than a few years and what is so amazing is how fast it all came. One minute, it was fine. The next it was creeping up the yard.
Monday morning, the Sheyenne River was still on the rise, and all Doug Kuhn could do was watch as water inundated his septic field. His house, just feet away from the waters, was doing fine.
We built it up quite a bit from 1997, Kuhn said. I guess that (flood) taught us all a lesson.
The Maple River was on its way down Monday, as the Duggans kept a close eye on meter readings, accessible through the National Weather Service Web Site. However, to the east, the Sheyenne was projected to move several inches higher.
That meant more battles for people like Mark Smith, who had carried fuel down the tracks to his property to keep pumps running, staving off the water for a few more hours.
South of that area, Ray and Twilla Floan were getting help from neighbors in their development. Waters rushing over 19th Avenue meant that ditches and yards would soon be filling with water that had run out of the Sheyenne.
It has to run somewhere, and all of the water that breaks out wants to run east, but its stopped by County Road 17, so it backs up here, Ray said. Our house is the low spot in the neighborhood, so the work starts here first and then we kind of move around to the other houses that need it. Everyone kind of works in a group.
Two ingredients bound most of the flood fighters together Monday. Most said they were amazed at how the waters rose so quickly, a sentiment echoed by the regions No. 1 floodfighter, Fargos Dennis Walaker. And most shared a sense of calm, a far cry from the panic and uncertainty that surrounded the 1997 fight.
I think the weather has a lot to do with that, Les Staples, who was shoring up his barn with his sons, Mark and David, and wife, Brenda, said. I remember the sheriff coming to get my wife and the boys during the ice storm and taking them out in the floating ice. I was alone without power for about a week. This is much different.
Indeed, 50-degree temperatures on Monday and Tuesday put weather on the side of the homeowners this time around, unlike the storm that crippled the area in April of 1997.
If something like that hit, wed all be in big trouble, Roers said.
This week, the families fighting the water will continue to watch the gauges, hoping for a couple of inches of reprieve to give them some breathing room. While that should come early in the week, rains later this week could cause a second crest, something no one wants.
If it drops as fast is it came up, well be O.K., Duggan said. But it will be here for a while. For now, its just a mess; something you have to deal with.