Well, I know it’s late, but at least I’ve gotten it posted. I wanted to have some sort of conclusion to the series of entries I made earlier this spring relating to the flood of 1997. This may not be quite the conclusion I wanted to write, but at least it’s something.
While there were plenty of hardships along the way to recovery, in general, the 10 years since the flood have proceeded quite well for the Red River Valley. Few outward signs of the flood’s destruction remain, and, even though it might have been reasonable to assume that there would be a bit of an exodus of local citizens following the devastation, this has by and large not been the case. The number of people living within close proximity to the Red River is likely the same as, if not higher than, the number of people living within close proximity before the flood. However, even so, there were many residences that were torn down because the federal government deemed that they were too close to the river and too prone to flooding in record flood events like the one of 1997.
Grand Forks, which arguably had the most out of any city to lose following the flood, has rebounded particularly well. After staying rather steady following the flood, the city’s population is now higher than what it was in 1997. New construction – of houses and businesses alike – continues at a rapid pace within the city, with projects being announced seemingly all the time.
Two of the most noticeable projects completed after the flood are the multimillion dollar Alerus Center and Ralph Engelstad Arena. The former is the largest indoor arena and convention center between Minneapolis and Seattle, while the latter is often described as one of the best arenas in the world and is home, of course, to UND’s men’s and women’s hockey teams. Even though the Alerus Center was conceived before the flood, and the Ralph Engelstad Arena probably would have been built regardless, both structures have helped outwardly signify that Grand Forks continues to progress forward following the flood.
Downtown Grand Forks, the heavily flooded, burned, and bruised portion of the city, has also sprung back to life. There has been a recent push to make the downtown area the central hub of Grand Forks by creating more green space, establishing more diverse businesses, and creating more housing space. Even the portion of downtown most seriously destroyed by fire has been rebuilt and transformed into a popular condominium development.
Although there’s no guarantee that the future won’t bring a similar-sized flood of the same magnitude as the one in 1997, the past 10 years have been spent ensuring that the effects of such a flood are as minor as possible. As previously mentioned, many homes and businesses in areas likely to go underwater in a major flood have been demolished or moved since 1997. Additionally, government officials have dictated that no new structures will be placed in these areas.
Many cities throughout the Red River Valley have refined their protection against major flooding by building better dikes and floodwalls that can withstand flooding as bad as or worse than that seen in 1997. The cities of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks received major federal and state funds to build a series of walls and dikes along the river. Grand Forks’ flood protection, which was just recently completed and dedicated as a part of the 10-year anniversary commemorations this past spring, protects the city from a river crest 2 feet higher than 1997’s crest.
The increased protection serves to illustrate the point that people of the Red River Valley are committed not to let the threat of flooding drive them away from their cherished homes and communities. Though it’s impossible to completely tame the Red River so that it won’t cause any more major flooding in the future, proper planning and awareness of the river’s devastating power will continue to lessen the chances of having such a destructive flood happen again.
Videos related to this entry:
The following two videos are montages of video taken during and after the flood. The first comes from KMSP-TV and the second from KARE-TV.
Sources used in writing this entry:
Beyond the Flood. Videocassette. Minnesota Broadcasters Association, 1997.