Saturday, March 28, 2009

Take me to the river.

Almost exactly 12 years ago, I experienced what will hopefully be my only natural disaster. I figure statistics being what they are, I may get lucky and that will end up being true.

The flooding up in Fargo, and regular tweets and posts from a friend (via SIL & BIL) regarding it have helped me remember it again. Twelve years ago I had dropped out of college and gotten a job doing tech support for a small telephone company turned Internet provider in northwestern Minnesota. I lived in the largest town near by (thus having rental property), Ada. Not very big at all, but big enough for a golf course.

That winter had been record setting for snow. Nearly every week I drove to work in a blizzard. In Minnesota, we do that, no shutting down for snow. There was so much snow that I couldn't see out of my little garden level apartment.

When it started to melt in early April, it became very apparent that things were not going to go well. The former prairie surrounding Ada, long ago farmed to death, robbing it of top soil, had reached it's capacity for water, and flooding had started to occur in places where had been no body of water. Honestly, I wasn't worried. The drainage ditch behind my apartment wasn't flooding, and while there were concerns about the river in town, everything seemed fine. At the time, I didn't have a TV, so if there were issues, I don't know how I would have known.

My primary concern was the sump pump in my building. The night of flood, it failed, sending nasty water into my apartment, ruining my futon. With no place to sleep, and a landlord who didn't seem to care, I left town. Being nervous about my stuff, I put my pet hedgehogs up on a shelf, the clothes on my closet floor up, and headed for my parents. Heading out of town, three of the four roads were flooded. I got out hours before things got really bad. The next morning, the town was evacuated. Then there was an ice storm. It flooded, the the flood waters froze.

I lost nearly all of my artwork, saving only about 15 pieces I had recently set aside for possible framing. I lost all of my art supplies, my dishes (sewage backup I had no desire to wash off), and a cat face pillow from my childhood. I also lost a sewing machine, two futons, and any furniture I had. The smell in my apartment when I returned to get what I could was something I will never forget. Very little water reached it. Most of it was backed up sewage from when the town's pumps failed. I did laundry for a day, washing all but a few things that were too far gone.

About four months later I left the state, swearing that I would only live on hills in the future, and that there wasn't anything you could pay me to move back to the prairie. Without the FEMA money I got, I wouldn't have had any money to find a new place to rent, or to move.

It taught me that stuff is just stuff, something I try to remember every time I need to purge things from my life.


darcie said...

I am having flashbacks as well - I lived in Fargo during the '100 year flood' with my family and friends being spread across the Red River Valley from Fargo to Grand Forks to Grafton. Heartbreaking to see them going thru this again - but the good news is...perhaps it's crested after all!
These *things* we've been thru in life are what make us who we are I guess...but it's certainly not much fun!

Sarah @ said...

What a terrifying story! I've only had to live through earthquakes and I am so immensely thankful for that. Earthquakes I can handle. The idea that my pets might burn or that I might drown? Not so much.

Susan said...

But the hedgehogs were okay? Please tell me they were okay.