Dang it’s wet.

Flooded farm

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.

Hwy 36 flooded at Wing

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.

Kids sandbagging

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.

August 18

United Way at Buckstop Junction

What a day. It was all about United Way.

I was completely honored and thrilled to spend the day shooting the United Way Day of Caring for the United Way Missouri Slope Area.  Hundreds of volunteers turned out to take on fix-up clean-up projects around Bismarck and Mandan.  These college and career-aged folks painted at Buckstop Junction, the historic village east of Bismarck.

In Mandan, volunteers at the Mandan Sr. Center helped distribute meals on wheels.  Another group at the center donned their car washing duds and washed the cars of some of the area’s senior citizens.  The same volunteer work happened in Bismarck, too where volunteers washed vehicles at the Senior Center. Fortunately, the day’s weather was perfect for such volunteer action outdoors.

Meanwhile, indoors, groups donned their painting duds to freshen up non-profit community support homes and offices.  I stayed busy through the day moving from site to site to shoot the volunteers.  It was a privilege and I’d love to do it again.  I had no idea what I was in for.  My years in TV news I guess came in handy, to be able to walk on to a site and see what is happening, shoot the images and pack up gear to head to the next spot.  Volunteers worked at more than 2-dozen locations. They came from area businesses and corporations that support United Way.

My last stop, at the end of the day was the Bismarck Zoo where I found the Day of Caring organizers and team leaders walking back from one of the projects at the Zoo.  As hard of work as it was for all, it was also a time of making and building friendships while improving the community.  I love it when people roll up their sleeves and pitch in, rather than shrug their shoulders and say, “Not my job.”

Rob, Dana, Jena, Dean