A Year of Gifts
The first time I threw a sandbag was in 1993, and the makeshift dike stretched across our backyard and the backyards of our neighbors. If I'm remembering right, we'd purchased our home on the Sheyenne river earlier that same year.
What had we gotten ourselves into?
When we were considering whether or not to purchase this house, I remember worrying about the potential risk the river might pose to the safety of our children. Granted, we didn't have any kids yet, but we hoped to. It wouldn't take me long to realize that shouldn't have been my only concern in regards to the river.
We've battled flooding numerous times in our small town over the years. As the waters began to rise back in 1993, we were about to learn not only how to fight a flood, but how important community is in the face of natural disasters.
It didn't take long before large numbers of neighbors, friends, and family showed up to lend a hand to protect our neighborhood. I'd never experienced anything like it before. Many of the locals knew what they were doing, having battled the water before. We didn't have a clue, but we could take orders!
If you've worked to either fill or place sandbags, you know it's hard, dirty work. The gritty sand gets into everything. That first year, I was kicked out of the line pretty quickly. Granted, it probably wasn't a great idea to be heaving and catching heavy bags, seeing as how I was pregnant with our first child. I found other ways to help. The teamwork paid off, and our properties stayed dry.
There would be more flood fights throughout the years. The spring of 1997 was particularly bad around here. Record snowfall and a spring ice storm led to record flooding. With a three-year-old and a newborn at home, we decided it wasn't safe to stay in the house with the kids. Floodwaters stretched in every direction. I left with the kids, but my husband and others remained behind to do what they could to protect our community.
Volunteers walked the dikes surrounding the town, night and day, watching for trouble spots. There were potlucks, neighbors checking on neighbors, and plenty of business for the local bar. There's nothing like a flood to get people outside, meeting their neighbors.
We are probably a couple of weeks away from knowing how much trouble, if any, we might face this year. There is still an awful lot of snow remaining in our yards. Today the river is quiet, low, still partially frozen. It won't stay that way. It'll awaken and rise. The question is always "how high?"
I took the photo above two weeks ago, on March 9th, from the riverbank behind our house during what I hope was our last storm of the year. I'm not expecting too much flooding trouble this year. And my fingers are crossed that I'm right.
My heart breaks at the scenes of devastation south of us, in Nebraska and parts of South Dakota. I hope people are pulling together in those communities as well, neighbors helping neighbors where possible. It can be a terrible, helpless feeling to face a flood. Water is a powerful thing, at times impossible to control.
Speaking from experience, I know your heart pounds a little faster when an earthen dike goes up at the end of your street, the sound of heavy equipment echoing through the chilled air. You appreciate the Red Cross vehicle as it drives down your street, checking on people and handing out treats to the rattled kids. When the National Guard shows up in your backyard, beefing up the dike protecting your neighborhood, you feel appreciation and gratitude.
Around here, much of our flooding issues arise in the spring, spurred on by snow melt. Land in the Red River Valley is very flat, allowing water to flow where it will with little to stand in its way. But at least we have time to prepare. A call has already gone out for volunteers to help build one million sandbags, in case they're needed. It's better to be safe than sorry.
It has been quite a few years since we've faced significant flooding issues around here. Back when we seemed to be in a cycle of too much water, things like the proposed diversion garnered plenty of attention. But it's been quieter on that front lately. Memories can be short. That's not to say there haven't been significant improvements since the last big flood. Permanent dikes have been built, homes in flood-prone areas have been bought out and removed, and roads have been raised. We should be in better shape now.
I've experienced enough instances of flooding around here to have faith in our communities. If help is needed, people will respond. Sandbags will be filled, and experts will stand ready. And the best possible outcome will be that none of it ends up being necessary.
Hopefully, our warm-up will be gradual this year. While I look forward to the day when there is nothing but green grass to see, a slow melt would be better. No one needs any additional water downstream from us right now. The warmth of summer will be here soon enough. I think most would appreciate a nice, slow arrival of spring, to keep our communities safe and dry.
After all, we don't need a flood for an excuse to get out and say hello to the neighbors again. Stay dry, stay safe everyone! Kim
Kimberly Diede Author
Hello everyone and welcome to my blog! My name is Kimberly Diede and I'm a fiction author and family girl. When time permits, I am happiest with a great cup of coffee in one hand and a book in the other. I love to alternate between reading and writing. Winters here can be long, dark and cold. Summers are unpredictable, lovely and always too short. Every season of the year, as in every season of life, is a gift. Let's celebrate it together!