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Forum staff reports, Published March 29 2014

Readers recall fighting massive flood of 2009

Fargo

The Forum asked readers to submit their memories of the record-setting 2009 flood here.

Here are some of their stories:

***

Long story short, my son Rylan was born March 14, 2009, 6 weeks early and was in the NICU. I am full-time here in the Air Guard. We went on flood duty, and he was in the hospital still.

When MeritCare decided to evacuate, he got heli-flighted to the Children’s Hospital in St. Paul. My wife headed down there by car to meet him. He was discharged a day later, and my wife stayed for two weeks in White Bear Lake with her parents while I stayed here and fought the flood. Very tough, trying times for us, and that was our first child.

We were re-united once the flood slowed down, and now Rylan just turned 5 and is a very healthy boy who loves hockey.

Staff Sgt. Dominic Ste. Marie

Fargo

***

The community banding together with friends, family and strangers walking the streets looking for a house to help throw sandbags at. Strangers helping strangers, whether it be manual labor, a hot cup of coffee or a cold deli sandwich. Everyone was on the same ship to save these cities we call home. The National Guard coming in saying, “You realize, you’re one of the only houses with people left in your neighborhood,” but that didn’t alarm us. We (gently) put our foot up on the dike of bags, cup of hot caffeine in hand for the long chilly nights, and kept trucking on, monitoring the pumps, leaks and making sure the generator was ready and full of gas if the power went out.

Although many of us could have done without the constant noise of the sightseeing helicopters flying over, it was soon turned into a game, anything to lighten the long days, right!?

Although we won the fight in 2009, we’ve since been bought out by the city of Moorhead and frequently find ourselves in our old neighborhood that we called home for 13 years reconciling about what happened over the flood, except instead of a hot cup of java and a look of exhaustion, it’s cold adult beverage in hand and smiles on everyone’s faces.

Mike and Jess Fredette

Moorhead

***

We sandbagged for a week and went off a measurement that was incorrect by the engineers. However, it didn’t really matter as the water went under the dike in the end due to the conditions.

The main road was inches from going over, and we were told to leave or we may not get out for a week.

Oakport Township, there was no help for us to keep up. We lost the basement and main floor. Thankfully, our flood insurance kicked in in time.

Kristi Appell

Oakport Township

***

We evacuated from our home, checked into the hotel room in Detroit Lakes with our pets, opened a bottle of wine we saved from the cellar, turned off the TV, unplugged the phones and just drank in the silence.

After living with bulldozers, trucks, police sirens and helicopters, we just wanted to get away. The next day we started dealing with the joys of a flooded home once again.

Tim Matzke

Moorhead

***

We lived on the river on Southwood Drive in 2009. That house is in the landfill now.

People ask me what the flood fight was like. I always answer, “It was a fantastic experience.” Not because I would want to do it again. Rather because of how people helped others, including me.

Neighbors and friends. Fargo and Moorhead people. Young kids and concerned adults. City workers, law enforcement and firefighters, National Guard and government officials. Incredibly and inexplicably to me, people from around our area that had no compelling reason to help showed up to help too. They all came together because we needed help, and they wanted to help. They filled sandbags, they directed traffic, they made sandwiches, they built dikes, and in more than one instance they risked their own lives to save Fargo/Moorhead.

All of them demonstrated how our region comes together to help, support, care for, and defend each other. Our community needed help and they came. Through all of that I was often overcome with emotion thinking about their willingness to do the simplest and the most incredible things for us. It still easily brings tears to my eyes when I stop to remember. So, was it hard and traumatic and scary? I guess it was, but most of all it was fantastic.

Jay Olson

Fargo

***

The thing I remember the most about the 2009 flood is watching TV at a McDonald’s and seeing WDAY 6 news coverage of the flooding. Nothing unique about that as I watched it for about 30 seconds before remembering that I was on a spring break trip with the Hawley High School Choir/Band in Florida. I was across the street from a Ron Jon Surf Shop on Cocoa Beach, but WDAY 6 news was being played by CNN.

Josh Marvig

Hawley, Minn.

***

Living south of Fargo along the Red River was a beautiful place, except in the spring. Spring of 2009 was a time we will not forget. It was a gruesome fight, but fighting a record flood was too much for us.

The sandbag and clay dike breached and then we saw water running into our basement and couldn’t do anything about it. What a terrible feeling.

We were evacuated by one of the Coast Guard’s air boats. Getting off the air boat we were interviewed by a reporter from The Forum and ABC. The next morning from our motel room, my brother called and said I was a celebrity, the interview was shown on Good Morning America. We picked up a morning Forum and across the front page is a photo of me carrying our dog and my son walking on the beach of the Red River, which was one or two miles from our home.

I thought this whole thing was a dream, but then realized we were all safe and had to continue to be positive and deal with this tragedy. We survived the record flood of 2009.

Jerry Farol

Green Valley, Ariz.

***

As a freshman at Fargo North High School in spring 2009, I slung my share of sandbags during that year’s flood fight. My memories are vivid. My mom was sick in bed with pneumonia and every morning Dad and I would head out to sandbag, she’d said, “I’ll just lie here and pray for everyone.” Before we got a week off of school to sandbag, my track coach had us sandbag Hackberry Drive in place of practice. Over our nine-day “vacation,” my family essentially brought the basement to the first floor for fear of water damage (though we lived at 42 feet); furniture, animal mounts, the TV, everything downstairs was carried up. The only thing that stayed downstairs was the gun safe because that would take too many cusswords to bring up.

Every morning my sister and parents and I would watch the flood commission meetings on TV and every night we would watch “Dancing With the Stars” – the only things worth watching on TV at the time, along with the news. My dad reveled in the fact that his canned food collection might finally be put to use if the city was inundated and we would be forced to seek refuge in our treehouse, subsisting off his canned food and sealed cereals. Conditions never came to that, but we’re happy to have played our part in fighting the flood of 2009.

Jack Dura

Fargo

***

Well my story is only one of three like it in Fargo. And it was a wild one. The morning of March 26, 2009, I woke up upset because I was supposed to have been induced on Monday and now it was much later in the week. Due to the flooding, my scheduled induction was cancelled. I was huge and uncomfortable.

The morning progressed and so did the labor pains. Oh, and it was my wedding anniversary that day. I went to the grocery store and got a nice dinner for my husband, son and I. I got home and put a roast in the crock pot.

An hour later, I called my husband and told him that my contractions were getting closer together and to stand by. An hour after that, it was time to head to the hospital.

We arrived at the hospital and my regular doctor was fighting the flood at her home so Dr. Herzog was on call. Things progressed fast, and Ella Jean Thvedt was born that evening.

After she was born, we were told that because of the flooding they were not allowing visitors at the hospital which we understood. We would see them tomorrow. But that was not the case. In the middle of the night, a nurse came in and told us that they were evacuating the hospital, and we were going on a bus to Abbot Northwestern in Minneapolis. We had 5 minutes to gather only our necessary things – which, by the way, were my glasses and the baby, and we were taken by ambulance to Altru in Grand Forks.

There were three of us with babies born within just a few hours. Our husbands followed behind the caravan in their own vehicles. Our ambulance came from Duluth. It was an amazing site all the ambulances lined up. We knew something was up when we were in our room and heard a constant stream of helicopters coming and going all night long.

We arrived to Altru in Grand Forks as if it was a parade and we were the main attraction. They greeted us with stuffed animals and warm greetings from the hospital administrator. Considering what a crazy, unprecedented, slightly scary time it was, everyone made it as calm as they could. The drive to Grand Forks was quite scary with the icy conditions and water over the interstate, but we made it.

Leah Thvedt

Fargo

***

On March 25, at around 5 p.m., we were on the top floor of Essentia hospital as my wife was about to go into labor. From that high up we were able to see the police driving around with the semi loads of sandbags. The helicopters kept flying over so we never got to sleep much that night.

At 2:15 a.m. on the 26th, we welcomed our son, Jayden, into the world. We saved the front page of The Forum from that day. I don’t remember what was on it, but it’s cool to see what was going on at that time. We were lucky to be at Essentia as MeritCare, at that time, had gotten evacuated. It was very eerie to not see any cars on the road and no people moving around.

Terry Kragero Jr.

Moorhead

***

My wife and I just moved to Fargo the previous June after living in Florida for the previous four years and spending the previous eight years in the Navy. We still talk about the flood of ’09 and throwing sandbags along Drain 27 near 45th Street South.

It was late, dark, snowing heavily and the temperature was dropping. We were sweating, dirty and tired while our hands were wet and freezing from fighting the flood … in a snowstorm.

My wife and I looked at each other while passing bags in the line, she smiled, leaned over and gave me a big kiss and told me she loved me, even if I did make her move to Fargo!

We’re still here five years later and really love raising our family in this thriving community. We’ve met great people and made great friends. The Red River Valley may not have a mild climate or picturesque scenery, but Fargo is home and we’re happy to fight for it.

Sam and Annette Nesius

Fargo

***

I vividly remember helping fight the 2009 flood. I was working to develop and build contingency flood protection systems for the Fargo Water Treatment Plant and Fargo Wastewater Treatment Plant. The decision to build the contingency protection systems was made because the river was entering uncharted territory and because of the vitality of keeping critical infrastructure systems protected.

Like many others, this work required long and stressful hours. As the crest predictions were changing, the stress and fear increased. The long days increased right before the crest, and I remember getting “done” at the Fargo Wastewater Treatment Plant around 11 on the evening of March 27. I remember the day specifically because I then went directly to the only store open to buy a new bike for my son’s 6th birthday on March 28. I placed the bike in the living room and put a short “happy birthday” note on the bike.

In the morning, I had to get up and leave the house before he woke. Later that day, I saw my son and he said thanks for the bike and then asked, “Why does it have to flood on my birthday?”

Eric Dodds

West Fargo

***

I was a college student during the year of the flood and to save the city, we were recruited to sandbag. During one of the sandbag outings, I got a call from a really cute boy asking me to go to dinner with him. I was so excited because I had a major crush on him. He must have been excited too, because he accidentally sent me a text meant for one of his friends detailing his feelings about the big evening.

Because of his embarrassment, he nearly cancelled our date. I’m glad he didn’t, though, because five years later he is the best husband a girl could ask for!

Anna Gilbertson

West Fargo

***

I was nine months pregnant with my third child during the 2009 flood. My baby was due March 31. Though our house was high and dry, my stress (aided by pregnancy hormones) had me in a panic. Hospitals were evacuating, roads were closed, and I had no idea what would happen if I went into labor. We were lucky enough to have extended family support — my sister-in-law and my brother each took a turn staying with us, in case the baby’s birthday came and we were left in a lurch with respect to our other kids.

In the end, Harry (who celebrates his 5th birthday on April 5) came late. The hospital and roads were open, and everything went beautifully. I would like to say that it was a cautionary tale that made us learn about preparedness for any situation, but in all honesty, we found ourselves in the same situation two years later, as we welcomed another baby during the 2011 flood!

Caryle Gast

Fargo