Flood waters still isolate many rural homesby Tom Robertson, Minnesota Public Radio
Many roads in rural parts of North Dakota are still under water because of flooding. In Cass County, it's not just the Red River that's causing flooding. The Sheyenne and other tributaries have made parts of the county a lake.
For several weeks, people living in an isolated neighborhood near Harwood, North Dakota have had to rely on boats as part of their daily commute to work and school.
Harwood, N.D. — The daily commute home for Donna Linnertz and her neighbors got a lot more complicated a few weeks ago.
That's when the Sheyenne River spilled its banks and caused massive overland flooding. Now, the water covers all the roads into her rural neighborhood.
Linnertz and about 40 other families have to leave their cars behind and cross about 250 yards of water to get home.
"We're going to land here, we're going to land," said a neighbor serving as volunteer ferry boat captain as Linnertz and others arrived home.
Usually, the Sheyenne River is a mile-and-a-half away from here. Now there's water everywhere.
Each morning and evening, ferry captains shuffle people across the water. In the evenings, the pickup and drop off points become social gathering places and a place to pick up mail.
Donna and Tom Linnertz moved into this neighborhood in 2000. Since then, they've been through five floods. This year is the highest the water has been.
"In the first week I was anxious every morning," said Donna who teaches in nearby Gardner, N.D. "Was I going to get to school? Would our school be open? Would I have to try to get to school?... Would I have to take a boat? So it was a little nerve wracking."
During that first week, Tom Linnertz took a week away from his job at the Small Business Administration so he could focus on sandbagging.
Tom says he's feeling better now that the water is starting to drop. But he figures the neighborhood will be surrounded by water for at least another week. He says the ordeal is taking its toll.
"You don't even know it's doing it, but it's stressing you out," he said. "You kind of have an idea, because you've been through it a couple of times before, of how high the water is going to get, but you never really know for sure. So it's been stressful. It's been disruptive. It puts you behind on everything that you planned to do."
The Linnertz's have managed to keep their home dry, though some of their cul-de-sac neighbors got water in their basements.
The couple stocked up on food before the flood, so they've avoided the hassle of hauling bags of groceries home by boat.
Donna says she should be used to flooding by now, but it still feels like her home is under siege.
"It's eerie getting up in the middle of the night. You look out the window and wonder, 'Okay, how high is it now?'" she said. "And when you see the reflection of the moon right close to your house, you know there's water right in the back yard.
"Isn't that romantic?" Tom offered as a joke.
"Right up close to the house," Donna continued. "And I kept saying, 'Are you sure we have enough on our dike? Are you sure we have enough sandbags?' Because you just kind of wonder how high it's going to get. I'll think it's ok, and then I'll wake up and be dreaming about water."
The Linnertz's biggest worry is that their spring flooding problems will be back, if not next year, then the year after. And there's no easy solution.
A diversion channel across the region could carry flood water directly to the Red River. But that would be expensive.
On a smaller scale, the couple would like to see their access roads built up so they can remain open during a flood. But doing that could hold back water and cause problems for their neighbors further north.
Tom Linnertz says if he was smart, he'd sell his home and move to higher ground. But he likes where he lives.
So for now, he's looking into building some permanent earthen levees in his yard, and perhaps around his whole cul-de-sac, so he doesn't have to go through another year of building temporary sandbag dikes.
"I can't keep doing this physically. I'm getting too old for it," Linnertz said. "I think even in Fargo, if they keep having a flood fight year after year, people will grow weary of it. It's hard to raise the battle cry for the same battle year after year."
Even as floodwaters begin to recede, there are still hundreds of people across rural North Dakota surrounded by water.
Some are much more isolated than the Linnertz's.
Law enforcement officials say they're trying to check in on those people when they can.
- Morning Edition, 04/17/2009, 6:50 a.m.