Not more than 20 feet from the hot tub at the home of Donna and Todd Morse, son Hoss is taking a well-earned break. He’s been the overnight guard of the dike that’s keeping the Red River from this neighborhood. Last night, he and the family built the dike up nearly another foot. He’ll be back on duty tonight.
The river level is dropping and much of the attention in the neighborhood today is inside. Drains in basements are giving the Red a way in, but the neighbors are ready.
Next door at the Brummer house, a St. Paul heavy equipment operator, Matthew Siede, is vacuuming up the water as it comes up through a sandbagged drain. Matthew went to the FargoDome — Sandbag Central — but they’ve got all the heavy equipment operators they can use. Here, a filled ShopVac, qualifies as heavy equipment.
At the Morse house, they’ve discovered a drain under a cabinet has been the source of some flooding. Donna’s brother, Mike, and family friends and relatives have moved sandbags inside to direct it to a still-working sump pump.
That’s the thing with this river. It wants into this neighborhood, if not through the dikes, then up through the drains. As this photo from the Brummer household shows, any possible way into the house, has to be considered a threat:
John Brummer’s wife, Jeanie, is making cookies. The Salvation Army has just delivered sandwiches, water, coffee and hot chocolate. I talked with one volunteer from Fergus Falls. She’s been here since Sunday.
John Brummer is trying to convince someone, anyone, to pay some attention to a stream that’s coming from under the dike on the far property line. His son, wearing a black T-shirt on this cold day, is constantly walking the dike, looking for trouble.
A couple of Army National Guard soldiers, down from Crookston, are walking the dike and offer a sympathetic ear but make clear that carrying sandbags isn’t their current mission.
At the Johnson home across the way, Bruce says he’s concerned about the dikes on this side of the peninsula. Over on this side, Todd Morse says he’s concerned about the ones over there.
It’s a gloriously sunny day in Moorhead. Water is dripping from the snow melting on the roof. Every drop of melted snow is a threat.
Out back of Riverview Circle, ice flows — a big concern — occasionally hit– and smash– small branches sticking out of the water; they’re connected to big trees underneath.
The stick I’ve been using to measure the river, is now floating on top of it.
Yesterday, I used the stick to show the river wasn’t going up. But it turns out it was actually frozen in the ice, and the ice was rising.
But the ice rings around the trees are telling a better story than all the equipment at the weather service, or my stick: the river is dropping.
It’s relatively quiet in the neighborhood, except for the pump that’s been throwing water back at the Red, and the occasional National Guard, Border Patrol, or TV news helicopter, none of whom are seeing — accurately — how it is the flood of any century is being frustrated by a small army of people who are pausing to take a breath, and getting ready for the river’s next assault.
The tide may have turned. And the people of Riverview Circle — the ones who are still here — are growing more confident, that they’ll beat the flood.
So far, they are.