Thursday, March 26, 2009


Moorhead, MN

I'm from Moorhead, Minnesota. I love that town. It's flat, simple, and the biggest draw is a viking boat that a guy built because he felt like it. It's now in a tented, museum-like building and the junior high school is (was) named after him. Moorhead is also mentioned once in the Coen brothers' film, The Big Lebowski; that's about it for national recognition. It's a town of about 30,000 that borders Fargo, North Dakota (also a city from a Coen brothers' film). The only thing separating them is a state line and the Red River. The same river that is currently 2x it's normal depth and flooding both cities to national disaster levels.

I live in Utah now. It's alright. But it's not the same as my home -- there's no real sense of community here. I think it comes with larger cities and metropolitan areas. Fargo-Moorhead had a community. Part of the reason for that is because the winters are harsh (temperatures as low as -40 F/C with windchill and 80+ inches of snow) and in the springs then bring (usually) a bit of flooding. In 1997 the town got a record snowfall of 117 inches -- that's 9 feet and 8 inches of snow. Then it melted and the river flooded up to 39.6 feet from it's usual 17 or 18 feet. In those conditions, if you don't band together with your community and help each other out, you don't survive.

1897, 40'1"; 2009, ~ 41"

Today the Red River sits at 38' 6" and it's expected to rise to 41' this weekend. To date, the highest recorded level is 40' 1" in 1897 (pictured).

Right now I'm sitting in my office in Utah in front of a computer, working on a few things for the IT department of my company. And I feel remarkably, utterly, useless. My friends and their families are on the verge of being flooded and losing their homes and there's nothing I can do to help. In 1997 I helped sandbag some, but I was only 12 years old at the time and there's only so much a 12-year old can do. Now I'm 24 and in much better shape to help aid in this disaster. I'm also 1,200 miles away. I feel awful that my home community is being devastated and there's not a thing I can do about it.

A friend of mine from school, Jen Matthees (her brother, Chris, was a close friend of mine in school), has been posting a video diary about the flood for the past few days. For those not in the area, it gives a personal look and explanation about what it's like. It can be viewed here.

EDIT: I've been informed that the new crest prediction for Saturday is 42 feet, 24 feet above flood level or 2.3x normal levels.

1 comment:

--jeff * said...

i've been toying with the idea of hopping on a plane back home to help out....

(moorhead is also mentioned in "the strait story", but that doesn't have quite the following that the lebowski does)