Spring 2011 is historic for its wetness, beyond anything every recorded in North Dakota. In the prairie pothole region of North Dakota between Steel and Devils Lake, up through Hurdsfield, the saying is, “You can’t get there from here.” Even if you’re in the farm house, you can’t get to the barn. I’m standing on the road to the farm house, and I can’t get there either.
It’s true everywhere. In the morning I drove down this road and the water was lapping at the shoulders. By evening, it was deep over the road and I couldn’t get the last 23 miles home.
Of course what was an inconvenience for me was a disaster for many. That’s why sandbagging became the social event of Spring 2011 in Bismarck. You can bet when these youngsters are grandparents, they’ll be telling their kids about the flood of 2011 when the Missouri River topped all historic levels. The town of Bismarck and area residents turned out to shovel sandbags. I borrowed a neighbor’s trailer and hauled sandbags to folks who were fighting the Muddy Mo. But if it weren’t for the hundreds of volunteers at the sandbag sites, there’s be no way homeowners could protect their homes from the 500-year level flood.
From the northwest corner of the state at Williston through central North Dakota, down to South Dakota, the story was the same. Too much water. The Army Corps of Engineers held back as much water as it wanted at the Corps dams, Sakakawea, Fort Pierre and Chamberlain until the river threatened the dams. Then came the big releases that flooded downstream cities such as Bismarck and Mandan.
Though the sign was in the perpetually flooded town of Devils Lake when I drove through there it summed up the feelings of most people — just add a few more zeros to the capacity of the requested ark.
Now as you look back to the spring of 2011 — what word would you use to describe it? I already used the word “wet.” Your turn.