Hi. Yeah… Where the hell have I been? Hmm. Let’s just say that parts of my life continually get in the way of the rest. I have been teaching, studying on what I should be teaching, trying to figure out where our apprenticeship should be going, gardening, landscaping, assuming my new duties as trustee of our local union, applying for the board of our state’s worker’s compensation department, keeping our secular group meeting, and maintaining a decent relationship with my wife and son. I’ve done fairly well on the last one. Everything else, including this blog, has taken a lower priority… as it should.
A brief bit of news. The Missouri River flooding has turned out to be better than we hoped. There is a tremendous volume of water in the river, over twice the previous record, and no one really understood what would happen. Turns out that having a mass of water moving at speed through the channel has eroded the 60 years worth of sand bars far more quickly than anyone had thought possible. This has left us with an overall lower level to the river than had been predicted, about 18 inches lower. The dikes are holding well and it looks as if only a few hundred houses are going to be severely damaged. This is good.
Now for the bad. This eroding of the river bottom has been far more dramatic than ever imagined. Parts of the river that were 30 feet deep before are now approaching 100 feet. A few houses along the bank have collapsed entirely and more will likely follow. One disappeared overnight, and last I heard no one witnessed it at all. This erosion may have repercussions, some as serious as losing several more houses, some more ironic in that many of the houses built on filled in land and sold for obscene amounts of money may not have backyard river access when normal flow rates return. A river channel deeper than before and in a different spot may subtract a bit of value from those million dollar houses. C’est la vie!
Perhaps the worst element of this flood will be the likely death of all the trees in the flood plain. Although these trees are flood resistant and often were underwater for part of the year before the dam was built, that was always in the spring when they were still dormant and using little oxygen. This late in the season, most cannot take having their roots submerged for months on end. We are looking at the deaths of tens of millions of mature trees, many nearly a century old. This saddens me most of all. When you live on the Great Plains, trees take on a near mystical preciousness. In a state where trees are rare, every loss here will be felt. Next year the river, a wonderful and underused resource, the best thing North Dakota has, will likely be a wasteland of dying and decaying vegetation. Shit!
And while Bismarck has fared better than we expected, our sister city of Minot in the northern part of the state has done for worse than anyone imagined possible. They had a spring flood scare and were forced to evacuate a quarter of the town, but that receded and most people had returned and picked up their lives again. Severe rains in Canada in the upper reaches of the Souris River caused an unstoppable surge of water a month later that they had little chance of defending their homes against. Their joy at surviving the spring flood, turned to despair when the news hit. There was nothing to be done. Sandbagging or dike building was so inadequate as to be worse than useless. This flood beat the previous high water record in 1881 by nearly 6 feet in places. It was eight feet over the present dikes. All they could do was to save the most precious and leave the rest.
One quarter of all the houses in Minot were flooded, some 3000 to 4000 of them, many with water right up to their rafters. No one wants to predict how many are going to have to be razed completely. It’s unfortunate. I have several friends who live in this area, and none really know how bad it is yet.
Importantly, few deaths have taken place. Trees and property are when put in perspective, well, just trees and property. Compared to the tragedy that Japan is going through our flood can rank no higher than an inconvenience. We still have our wives and husbands and children. You could take everything else I have and I could sleep well that night. I could burn my house to the ground and still laugh until my stomach hurt over something Reilly had said. But take those we love? A worse loss could not be contemplated.
Thinking of those coastal villages and their incredible loss of life will put whatever me and mine suffer into perspective for a very long time. Loss is only loss if it can’t be replaced.
Be safe all.
Here are some pictures Reilly and others have taken around town.