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James Ferragut, Published March 14 2010

Ferragut: We prepare again to be ‘the story’

Fargo-Moorhead attracted the world’s attention last year because of our refusal to abandon our cities in the face of a potentially catastrophic flood.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency predicted that we would be fighting a flood of epic proportions and suggested that we didn’t have the time or resources to succeed. Mayor Dennis Walacker knew better and told FEMA to “watch us.” And watch us they did.

National news coverage gave witness to the spirit, determination, grit, tenacity, heart and sacrifice of those of us who live here. The commitment to save our cities was the envy of the country. For a few days we became pages in the nation’s diary. People were hooked and amazed.

We might be heading down the same path. There are psychological wounds not yet healed, damaged homes not yet repaired, some neighborhoods still in limbo and flood prevention plans in embryonic stages. Are we going to have to step up to the plate one more time?

We are better prepared. This flood isn’t a sneak attack, which last year forced us to ramp up our resources overnight. So even though the task this year carries less urgency, the job ahead is still imposing.

Sandbags are being filled and stored. Vendors from across the country have been here demonstrating (and hoping to sell) the newest and most innovative tools and equipment available in the flood control industry.

Planning at all levels, from local neighborhoods to FEMA, is under way.

Educators, professional counselors and psychologists, with the help of local media, are delivering empowering informational tools to help us deal with stress. Unresolved feelings: apprehension, worry, frustration and anger from last year’s fight, just barely suppressed, are starting to bubble up.

There isn’t a choice. In spite of efforts to establish a long-term, permanent flood solution in the Valley, the reality of plodding politics coupled with the size of the project are no match for whimsical and determined Mother Nature.

So with a weary eye on the horizon, we slowly and maybe even begrudgingly rub the sleep out of our eyes, dust ourselves off, dig in our heels and ready ourselves for the task ahead. It’s what we do.

Ferragut is an advertising executive and regular contributor to The Forum’s commentary pages.