Samuel Jerome and Richnightder

Samuel Jerome and Richnightder
Our boys in Haiti

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Bismarck is flooding in historic proportions

The city of Bismarck is suffering a flood something akin to a 300-500 year flood.  Many homes along the river may be a total loss, but the flood isn't just affecting riverside homes.  Most of the Southern part of Bismarck, including the mall, numerous businesses and homes well inland are being innundated. 

Bismarck looks like a war zone.  Everywhere you go, people are covered in mud and sand.  The roads are closed so the Army Corps of Engineers can construct 'Hail Mary' levy's and dikes.  The zoo evacuated all of its animals and sent them far away.  Fire stations in the flood zone are sandbagged and levied.  Grocery stores are ringed with 6 foot dikes.  It's a scary situation to witness.  And it won't just flood and recede, it is expected to last 2 months or more.

The problem for the Missouri River flood actually originates in Montana.  Eastern and Central Montana have had astronomical amounts of rain in the last several weeks and that all drains down the Yellowstone towards the Missouri and passes right thru Bismarck.  All this flooding doesn't even take into account the snow in the mountains of Montana yet to melt and rush into the rivers.  Once this volume of water is released from the Garrison Dam it will reach Bismarck, and then pour thru the drainage canals and cause massive overland flooding.  They anticipate the water will stay put for several months and worried homeowners are frantic to save what they can and get their possessions out.

We are high and drive at our home, but we have friends near the river that are frantically trying to save their home.  We met this couple when the wife was Thomas' tutor.  She's everything you picture when you think of a kind, patient, teacher who loves teaching struggling students.  She and her husband have no children, are in their early 60's and have no one to help them.  Our family has spent the last several days filling,  tying, delivering and unloading sandbags, moving their furniture upstairs, packing up goods to be moved out to their new apartment and as of yesterday, helping building a 9 foot dike of clay around their house.

These people built their house to an elevation of a 300 year flood and never thought they would have to  face an epic flood.  They bought an Aquadam and although it cost them about $8000 it is leaking.  Not a good time to have a leak!  So yesterday, the dike plan went into effect.  We head back to their place in a few minutes.  The boys and Marc will be outside sandbagging and Madison and I will be inside helping frantically pack up someone's possessions. 

Madison's trip to Seattle via Amtrak was cancelled yesterday because the tracks are washed out in Montana.  Now Pastor Paul in his faithful sense of determination is securing a chartered bus to drag our group to  Seattle.  GULP!  Scheduled departure is tomorrow morning......insert massive swear words and foot stomping here!

I am grateful that our family is able to help those who need it.  Our backs are sore but our spirits are hopeful that we can mitigate our friends losses.  I can't imagine the panic and desperation that one must feel when you know in about 72 hours the water will begin to overtake your home and you may never, ever, be able to return.  Today's outside work is compounded by a high wind warning of sustained winds near 50MPH.  The spirit of help is running strong right now throughout the community.

The kids are dressed and ready to begin another day of back-breaking work.  We walk out our front door with a new sense of appreciation and gratitude that at this moment in time, we are not in danger of losing our home, but with a new found recognition that in the blink of an eye, we too, could be faced with a similar tragedy. 


troutbirder said...

Our prayers are with all the threatened people in the flood zone of the Missouri. My sons In Laws live in Bismarck. They have already evacuated.
We have a granddaughter from Ethiopia and a grandson from Rwanda.

Julie said...

Saying prayers for all involved! Thanks for being good neighbors, I can't even imagine how scared your friends are now. If you manage to get to Seattle, Elliott and I can come meet you if it works out. Just send me an email-
Take care! Tell your kids and hubby I think you are all amazing!