Waiting for the Red River

This was the scene on south Moorhead’s Riverview Circle neighborhood two years ago as the Red River headed for its 40-foot crest…

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This was the view on Thursday afternoon, as the river approached nearly the same level…

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It’s hard to overstate how things have changed here in two years. A longer head-start will do that for you. But so will the continuing education program living near the Red River constitutes. The residents of this neighborhood have built what appears to be a stronger sandbag dike against the river than they did in 2009, and appear to have built it mostly by themselves. There are no busloads of volunteers arriving, no National Guard trucks ready to evacuate people, few trucks moving around, no sirens, and not a lot of worry, from what I could tell.

Still, the river poses the same threat it did in 2009. “It only takes one breach,” resident John Brummer said as he walked the neighborhood, missing few opportunities to remind a city council member, or a city engineer of a few things that could be tightened up.

Up the street, the Kirk family was adding a few sandbags and spreading plastic on their share of the dike that rings this neighborhood, sitting 42 feet above the Red’s zero level.

In many ways, the residents here face an emotional dilemma. On the one hand, they’ve put back-breaking work into protecting their neighborhood and there’s a slight sense of disappointment at the notion that the Red won’t rise to test it. On the other hand, nobody is welcoming the river to the backyard.

And so they wait, socializing when they can…

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Unlike two years ago, most of the snow is gone. The temperatures were in the 30s in 2009; they were in the 60s on Thursday. The ice covered the river in ’09; it’s gone now. There was an overriding sense of urgency in 2009; there’s confidence in 2011.

It’s hard to tell whether any of that is good or bad.

  • Jim Shapiro

    Special Pulitzer for Bob Collins for flood coverage.