Minot evacuees wonder where they'll find refuge
MINOT, N.D. - On the plywood sheet that blocked the door to a dark, empty house were crude words in red spray paint: "Beach party 6-22-11."
"At least my neighbors have a sense of humor," Pat Nash said as he snapped a picture. He made a chuckling sound that was half jocular and half bitter.
Nash, the owner of a trucking company, was about to become homeless as the waters of the Souris River inched toward the top of the dikes that protect his neighborhood in northwest Minot.
"I'm going to Kenosha, Wis., because we have no place to stay," Nash said. That's where his wife's brother lives, he said.
All day Tuesday and much of Wednesday morning, families like his rushed to move valuables to high ground or the upper stories of their homes. Cars, pickups, vans, even privately owned buses were drafted for the task. Stores and offices moved inventory and equipment, relocating if they can.
Amid them all were flood tourists with their cameras and curiosity. Nash just wanted a last look of the neighborhood before the flood came.
Then, in the distance, came an urgent sound.
Nash stared in its direction, dumbfounded for a second. "There goes the siren."
It was around 1 p.m.
The neighborhood where Nash lived is filled with older homes where the lawns are mowed and flowers bloomed. It survived the last big flood in 1969, the one that everyone in Minot is using now as a benchmark. The flood of 2011 looks like it will dwarf that one.
A photo on the front page of the April 22, 1969, edition of the Minot Daily News shows water lapping at the front door of Irene Probst's home at 516 8th St. NW, a bit west of Nash's place.
The crest was 1,555.4 feet that year. If the photo is taken a few days from now, the water level could go far higher. The National Weather Service estimates the river will reach 1,562.5 feet by Monday morning.
Raymond and Judy Hoskin, who own the home at 426 5th St. NW, said they thought the water would go past the shutters. Their daughter had been living there, but it was empty Wednesday. The couple, who lived on higher ground, were there before the sirens went off to prepare the house for flooding.
"Pulled the breakers, plugged all the floor drains, opened the basement windows to let the water in," Raymond Hoskin said, reviewing a mental checklist. But later he made it clear he thought it was a waste of time. "I don't think this house will ever survive."
He believes the Souris River will rip the house off its foundation and carry it away.
He and his wife were already thinking about what comes after. Where will the evacuees live while they clean out what's left of their homes?
"There's no place to go with that oil field to the west," he said, alluding to the housing shortage brought on the by influx of oil workers. "It was tough before."
"Minot is so short of housing right now," said Judy Hoskin, a Realtor. "It will take a long time to get back in."
Tu-Uyen Tran writes for the Grand Forks Herald.