MPR's Ambar Espinoza sent this picture along late last night. A trickle of flood victims has started showing up at a Red Cross shelter at Moorhead High School. More will start showing up today.
It's ironic, actually, that Moorhead has been the community where the neighborhoods are being swallowed up first, because it's also the one that is universally ignored in most of the flood coverage. Fargo is bigger, lower, and has all of the news media. The fight is still going on there and it will, no doubt, be well documented.
Maybe they'll have better luck than the people of Moorhead.2 Comments)
I'm sorry I haven't had a chance to post this before. But this Googlemaps view gives you a better idea of what Riverview Circle has been battling. Click for a larger view. The pushpin is 3521 Riverview, the home of the Morses. John Brummer's house is just above that, and Bruce and Vikki Anderson's is in the cul de sac across the street. You can even see the swimming pool in the Morse's backyard, that has been well documented on the News Cut site below.
The water is right up to the backyards now and you can see why there's been an evacuation. As soon as there's a breach, the Red River is going to try to run straight, rather than around the neighborhood, and it's going to cut almost directly through the Morses' property, over to the Johnson's and then back to its normal route toward downtown Fargo.
And here's the houses in better times -- Morses on the left, John Brummer's on the right.
I'm not sure when I'll be posting again. I have a cellphone modem and I'll be living out of the car for a few hours while I try to figure out where to go. Apologies in advance if things aren't quite as detailed as they've been the last few days. I'll be on with Cathy Wurzer on Morning Edition this morning.3 Comments)
I made it onto Riverview Circle a little bit before sunrise. The police roadblocks were gone. The sandbag stations were abandoned. There were no giant piles of sand, signifying that everything the city brought, the residents used. And still, it wasn't enough.
The National Guard humvees have been replaced by troop trucks, indicative that there are still more people that need to get out.
At the Morse's house, son "Hoss" was trying to warm up. Hie was in bare feet with his pants rolled up, his waders were wet from trying to help a neighbor whose basement was being overtaken by the Red River, which had found its way in through a drain. The sump pumps burned out trying to save it.
Everyone out at the Morse house was gone. I told him I was sorry for what his family was going through, he smiled -- as everyone has this week -- and said "what are you going to do."
This neighborhood, and this city, which is getting far too little recognition as the media makes its mad dash to Fargo, did in five days, what it took three weeks to do in 1997, and they've done it better, and they've made the dikes higher.
I think a lot of people though that if it all went south, it would do so with water flowing over the top of a dike, and people still trying to stop it. But it didn't end that way.
The street outside John Brummer's house has about a half foot of water on it, again from the drains. Hoss says John evacuated last night, but I have not been able to confirm that.
Over at Bruce and Vikki Peterson's house, a light burned in a front room, and I think I saw Vikki at a computer, but I couldn't tell for sure, I stepped in water outside their house and water poured into the last pair of dry boots I had. Compared to Riverview Circle, I've got it good.
Update 7:38 a.m. - Now that the sun is (almost) up, I stopped by John Brummer's house.
Water is streaming down the driveway. Nobody is home. Only the sound of birds punctuates the neighborhood. A pallet of sandbags still sits in the driveway. They never made it to the wall.(5 Comments)
Most people appear to have left. I stopped back in at John Brummer's house and, indeed, they're all gone. Water streaming down the driveway and into the street. By way of comments, I've learned that Vikki and Bruce Johnson are still there, so I'll try to stop by.
Note the quiet.3 Comments)
I'm probably going to be doing quick posts today, so forgive me if they don't all make sense.
I stopped by Vikki and Bruce Johnson's this morning. They're still here but are prepared to leave if need be. "The neighborhood is quiet," Vikki said. I've got an interview with her and I'll try to post it soon. Bruce will be on Midday this morning with Gary Eichten. They've been getting calls from the media today, who apparently picked up their story via News Cut. So I apologized for that.
I'm currently in the kitchen of Todd and Donna Morse. The fire department is out back looking at the dike. Their son and his wife, where they stayed last night, have shown up to help sort things and it's been difficult for them.
Donna has given me 142 pictures she's been taking so that I can resize them and get them posted for her -- and you -- so their relatives from other places can follow them.
John Brummer is back working this morning although I haven't been over yet, other than to check out a steady stream that's coming down the driveway.
The National Guard is in the area. I'm told that Hoss asked them for a pump and some help with a weak spot. "That's not our mission," came the reply. And, of course, it's not. They're here to get people out.(4 Comments)
I'm in the Morses' house, we're getting water behind the dike now. Next door at John's house, there's a small group trying to make sandbags, lots of water coming through there. No volunteers, sandbags or sand being allowed in the neighborhood. I'll go over there to help out as soon as I finish this post.
An ice ring has formed around a tree out back here...indicating that the water MAY actually be going down.
Lots of people -- well, what few people are here -- are upset that the city/county gave up on this neighborhood. "We had this thing licked," Todd Morse's father said to me a few minutes ago.
There was a pump that the city dropped off earlier this week to be used to pump water behind the dikes. But it wasn't being used. Todd told them to pump out the water from the street where it's getting deeper and icing over (Memo to self: Move my car!).
"You're worried about water in the street?" one cop said. But of course this is the way the river works in this area, the flood comes from behind you when you're looking at what's out beyond the dikes.
Here are the pictures Donna gave me to upload. Her brother, by the way, has just pulled in. He drove all night from Colorado Springs.
Here are Donna's pictures going back to last weekend:7 Comments)
The three families who stayed behind to fight the Red River in the southern Moorhead, Minnesota neighborhood of Riverview Circle, are mostly on their own. Some firefighters with the Moorhead and Callahan Fire Departments are with them.
But up at the sandbagging station outside the Johnson's home, the "volunteers" now are all family members of Todd and Donna Morse and John Brummer next door. A family friend who works for the Morses, Adam Stewart, is loading sandbags into a truck. "Yesterday my wife was teaching college boys how to make sandbags," he said, adding, "God, I love that woman!"
The concern is a trickle-turned-river from
the dike a storm drain that's growing. There's tremendous pressure on these sandbags right now and Todd and his relatives and friends are throwing sandbags into the water, entrapped by a black tarp.
The stench of mineral spirits permeates the Morse house. A pump with bad gas isn't working and the carburetor is being cleaned to try to coax it back to a useful life.
John Brummer has sandbagged around his house. His son his here and his daughter, a member of the Air National Guard, has arrived, but I overheard a Moorhead firefighter say, "that's an awful lot of water to be coming from a dike." (As it turned out, it's not coming from the dike.) Abut a half hour later, I also overheard him report to another fire official, "we think we're getting ahead of it out at the street where a city pump has been hurling water back at the Red for the last four hours. He added, however, "if we don't get this fixed....we could be in trouble."
After Mark Seeley's appearance on Midday, I called him and asked him to talk to John and from I understand, there was some encouragement that at least as far as water levels beyond the dike, it's not getting noticeably worse. Beyond that, much of the information you're hearing on MPR and reading on the Web site, isn't getting through here; there's no time to listen to the radio.
In that way, perhaps, Riverview Circle is cut off in more ways than one. Occasionally, I duck inside to file a blog update or video, and feel guilty that I'm not back outside helping. I check the comments and find messages from around the country for these three families -- and the Red River Valley at large -- and their eyes brighten when I relay them.
If clinging to hope and three families' refusing to quit is all it took to beat back a flood, the Red River would be a punch-drunk loser.
But it takes more. The unanswered question, however, is how much more?
(To see all of the flood posts, go here)
That river of water that's pouring out of John Brummer's driveway, and threatening Riverview Circle in Moorhead is not coming from the sandbag dikes that he and the neighbors have been building since last Saturday.
It's coming from a storm drain the city put in after the flood of '97, and he's waiting for the city to come and cap it. He's been waiting a long time.
Meanwhile, up the Circle a few houses, the city is building a dike in front of houses quickly. They're being sacrificed for the good of the city that has scurried to what passes for higher ground in these parts.
Here in the Morse household, people munched on pizza while watching the news conference out of Fargo. Gov. Pawlenty, Sen. Klobuchar, and Rep. Peterson are on the TV now, but there's nobody here watching. They're back outside and have rejoined the battle.10 Comments)
Left for dead this morning, Riverview Circle is coming to life. Down the street they're building sandbag dikes around the front of several houses, whose dikes in the back yard are in peril. That means truckloads of sandbags are heading back in to the neighborhood for the fight.
And -- even more encouraging -- volunteers are being allowed in:
Next door, John Brummer is feeling better. With the sandbags being brought in, and an obviously high-ranking fire department official intervening, a pallet-load of bags has stemmed the flow from the uncovered city drain. There's hope.
The man nearest the camera, by the way, is one of the unsung heroes of Riverview Circle. I know him only as "Dean from the fire department." He's been here with these few houses every day and every moment since the dike work started. He can make things happen, and he has.
Here is the problem they've been dealing with over at John's. The storm drains run from the street, though John's driveway and into the river. There's a "check valve" installed that prevents water from coming back through the storm drain system when the river comes calling. But the valve is located between the street and this manhole cover, not between the manhole cover and the river.
Why did they do it that way? "We didn't think the river would get this high," one of the firemen speculated.
Todd Morse came in a few minutes ago, long enough to check everyone's favorite Web page, the hydrology report.
"They're still projecting 42 feet," he said. I couldn't tell whether he was encouraged or disappointed by that. I checked the measurement outside a half hour ago. The river has not gone up at all today; but it hasn't gone down either.
"I'll take that," Adam Stewart said to me. "Thank God it's cold." And it is. The water that's getting through -- by whatever means -- is freezing fairly quickly. But the sun is out, the volunteers are coming , the heavy equipment is moving, and the sense is that all is not lost.
By the way, we are all very cheered by your best wishes. Chad, commenting upthread, said he felt like a jerk sitting in his cubicle. I know what you mean. Every now and again, I come in from sandbagging or trying to help out in order to post, and I feel guilty that I'm inside and everyone's outside working. But these people -- the Johnsons, the Brummers, and the Morses -- have been entirely gracious allowing me to intrude, and they'd be last the people to tell you you're a jerk for being in a cubicle, and doing what you can to help -- even if it's just sending best wishes and good thoughts.8 Comments)
If the message above says "this video is no longer available, go here.
I was helping John Brummer set up a sump pump behind his sandbag dike when we heard sirens. "That's not good," he said.
"It must be just sandbags," I said, because the police had been escorting flatbeds full of sandbags earlier this week.
"Dad, we've got to go; mom's grabbing her purse," her son said. And John didn't wait, running for the car. I headed to the Morses who were already heading for their SUV, Todd going back inside to get a critical piece of equipment: my laptop.
A levee had broken -- or was intending to -- up the street, we were told (Note: We don't know that this is the case, we only know what we were told) . I headed in that direction. Volunteers and residents were streaming out. Firefighters were streaming in.
Up near Highway 75, more sirens. State troopers and local police escorted more flatbeds of sandbags in.
Just minutes before that, things seemed to be going well, despite some obvious hardships, one of which is the lack of pumps. Sump pumps would burn out quickly. Water started coming into the basement of Todd and Donna Morse's house. This gentleman in the black is a mechanic who worked all day practically rebuilding this pump.
But when it was hooked up and started, it immediately blew a seal. There was no time to try to open it up again, so Todd and his family and friends tried to minimize the damage and pump out what could be pumped out.
Update 9:44 p.m. As you can tell from the comments below (family members, please keep the updates coming!), the problem has been repaired and the people are still at it. I've found a motel in Rothsay and I hope to return on Saturday.
Photographer Jeff Thompson, just sent this picture from Fargo, and says it's "spooky quiet" there.
9:48 p.m. - Vikki Johnson has checked in (comments below) and reports she and Bruce are fine.(18 Comments)
Flood fatigue. It's been only one week since Moorhead residents like Vikki and Bruce Johnson of Riverview Circle first learned they had to start preparing for the worst. That's two fewer weeks than they had in 1997. You may recall earlier in the week, Bruce said that when they were out sandbagging last Saturday, the river was so far away they wondered why they were out there.
Photographer Jeff Thompson took this picture Friday morning and I think it captures everybody and everything pretty well.
I was relieved to hear from Vikki (in comments in the thread upstream) this evening:
Hey Bob, Bruce and I are fine. Bruce stayed behind when we evacuated earlier today. I went back home around 8 tonight. Our dike is strong and our pumps are working. Brian Cole, Moorhead Orchestra teacher is manning our pumps so Bruce can sleep! Another one of those theatre guys to the rescue! The battle is not over - the river has not won! We will continue to fight on!
Vikki and I talked earlier today. I encourage you to listen. Listen
A few minutes later, Donna and Todd Morse were planning their strategy for the day.
When the big equipment isn't moving, the volunteers aren't around, and when the sun goes down, I imagine it can get pretty lonely. So reader Jeff Olsen's picture tonight provides a good reminder that plenty of people are still sending help.
Shortly after the evacuation, I was on All Things Considered. (Listen)
Driving over to Rothsay (the only motel I could find a room available), I saw three empty buses from the Twin Cities, a lot flatbed trucks, and some construction equipment heading toward Fargo-Moorhead.
The sun was out Friday although it was cold. There were many more helicopters and airplanes in the sky today, one of them was a Civil Air Patrol damage assessment flight (turn down your speakers) :
The latest projection for a crest looks like this (See updates here)
The crest stays through April Fool's Day.
It looks like I'll be back up on Riverview Circle later on Saturday morning. It may be the last day I'll be in the area. I've got to restock and then return. These people can take a punch. And they can throw one.
Until I get back up there, I hope family members will continue to post updates below. Vikki, Bruce, Todd, Donna, John and Jeanie and their families have a lot of friends they've never met.1 Comments)