Saving Riverview Drive: ‘Dad, we’ve got to go!’

I was helping John Brummer set up a sump pump behind his sandbag dike when we heard sirens. “That’s not good,” he said.

“It must be just sandbags,” I said, because the police had been escorting flatbeds full of sandbags earlier this week.

“Dad, we’ve got to go; mom’s grabbing her purse,” her son said. And John didn’t wait, running for the car. I headed to the Morses who were already heading for their SUV, Todd going back inside to get a critical piece of equipment: my laptop.

A levee had broken — or was intending to — up the street, we were told (Note: We don’t know that this is the case, we only know what we were told) . I headed in that direction. Volunteers and residents were streaming out. Firefighters were streaming in.

  1. Listen Bob Collins interviewed on All Things Considered

Up near Highway 75, more sirens. State troopers and local police escorted more flatbeds of sandbags in.

Just minutes before that, things seemed to be going well, despite some obvious hardships, one of which is the lack of pumps. Sump pumps would burn out quickly. Water started coming into the basement of Todd and Donna Morse’s house. This gentleman in the black is a mechanic who worked all day practically rebuilding this pump.


But when it was hooked up and started, it immediately blew a seal. There was no time to try to open it up again, so Todd and his family and friends tried to minimize the damage and pump out what could be pumped out.


Update 9:44 p.m. As you can tell from the comments below , the problem has been repaired and the people are still at it. I’ve found a motel in Rothsay and I hope to return on Saturday.

Photographer Jeff Thompson, just sent this picture from Fargo, and says it’s “spooky quiet” there.


9:48 p.m. – Vikki Johnson has checked in (comments below) and reports she and Bruce are fine.

  • Leslie

    No words. So very sorry. You all fought the good fight.

  • Karoline

    Like Leslie, I have no words. We are sending you strength and hoping you can get some rest. You are amazing people and we are truly in awe of your spirit. Rest assured we will be there to help you clean up afterwards. For now, just know that we admire your fight, your stamina, and your strenght in fighting this flood.

  • Beverly Ferguson

    So, so sorry. We have watched and admired you as individuals and as a community. You have show all of us how important we are to one another.

  • Jessie Single

    I am so sorry to hear about this flooding. Please let us know when its time to clean up. I can’t speak for other but I know that I’d like to do my part to help out folks in my old college town.

  • Hannah

    I second that, Jessie.

  • Lori Alamo

    We are family of Todd and Donna’s and are very grateful for this blog. It’s so hard being here in the Cities and not there to help. We will continue to check for updates..let us know how we can help going forward!

  • We arrived at this site at 12:30 and left at 5:00, I am getting conflicting reports, some are reporting that the secondary dike is holding. Three homes where on the wet side of the secondary dike.. We are praying for our neighbors!

  • Bob Collins

    Todd and Donna and family are fine. I assume they’re heading across town.

    I don’t have a place to stay here anymore so I’m going to Rothsay (my boots are soaked) and I’ll come back tomorrow.

    I think the National Guard might be starting to button up the neighborhood so I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to come back in.

    I didn’t get a chance to check on Bruce and Vikki Johnson, but I know they have been reading the blog and they’ll let us know how they’re doing.

    And John’s family is out OK but I don’t where they’ve gone to. His wife Jeannie has made it back, too. I know his family has been reading the blog as well and I’m sure will be in touch with them and perhaps post here how they’re doing.

    And for all of these three families, I want to be sure that the fact we’ve focused on you all this week doesn’t influence any decisions you make.

    And if I can’t find you all tomorrow, I’ll be heading back to the Cities, and I’ll come back up when the river goes down, and I’ll be back up again this summer, when I take you all to dinner.

    It was an honor telling your stories this week.

    There’s a happy ending ahead. It may not be this weekend, but it’s ahead.

  • I am not sure about the rest of the neighborhood, but the Brummers are back fighting. More volunteers arrived to help reinforce the dike and to sandbag around the window wells.

    Thank you all for helping our families!

  • Hi Bob,

    My mom Jeanie wanted you to know that the city has sent several more forklifts of sandbags to their house and to Todd’s house. She said that Dean has been their “angel disguised as a human.” The firefighters are helping to reinforce the dikes and everyone is continuing to fight.

    Thank you again keeping us updated. Your reports are by far the most imforative that I have found, and I know that you have a lot of readers who are hoping that you will be able to continue your coverage tomorrow.

  • Lisa Brummer


    I am now in the cities taking care of the dog that John and Jeanie’s daughter Jennifer was tending to when she got the call to active duty as a member of the national guard. I am thankful that I have internet as I no longer have WDAY that I have been listening to and watching since Monday. Your blog and pictures are so nice to turn to for the info. I can’t tell you enough how great this tool for communication has been. You have done an amazing job covering this story. I thank you.

    Lisa Brummer

    Sister in law of John Brummer and Jeanie.

  • Heather

    To all the families Bob’s been following, two things.

    1) I’m so sorry.

    2) Thank you.

  • Bryan Abernathey

    Take care Brummers. Speaking from experience, I know what you are going through. Keep up the good fight. Myself and all of Grand Forks are praying for you and wishing you luck.

    Bryan Abernathey, fellow Hooligan.

  • Vikki Johnson

    Hey Bob,

    Bruce and I are fine. Bruce stayed behind when we evacuated earlier today. I went back home around 8 tonight. Our dike is strong and our pumps are working. Brian Cole, Moorhead Orchestra teacher is manning our pumps so Bruce can sleep! Another one of those theatre guys to the rescue!

    The battle is not over – the river has not won! We will continue to fight on!

    Vikki Johnson

  • Scott Ressler

    Last I heard things are still going well and they are working around the clock down there to fortify and raise the dikes to 44 feet. Hopefully everyone there is able to get some rest because it’s going to be a long fight.

    I wish I was able to stay longer, if anything changes and you guys need more help we can easily come back down that way. It’s been an interesting week getting prepared for the crest. I think we did a good job working through the weather, and hopefully we can see the crest only last for the 3-4 day mark. Even though there may not be a lot of people there, we’re all pulling and praying for you guys and everyone else in the Red River Valley.

  • Casey DeLanghe

    Hi Bob-

    Hoping this message finds you safe and semi-dry!

    I am Todd and Donna Morse’s son. I just had the opportunity to talk to my mom and she wanted to let you know that they are planning to continue fighting all day at their home tomorrow. Also, Hoss will be at the house all night keeping the pumps going. Please feel free to go back if you are able.

    Thank you for all the information, we will continue to intently follow your blog and comments. Let us know if you need more info.

    Your posts have been the best way for us to keep updated on our friends and family–we really appreciate all the hard work and hope to hear more from you soon.

    Casey DeLanghe

  • Louise

    We are thinking about you and hoping for the best for your families and your homes. Can’t imagine how tired everyone must be. I hope everyone can get a little sleep and wake up with dry boots and working pumps.

    Your hard work to save all of the homes in the neighborhood is truly astounding. I am really proud to be from western MN. Thank you for sharing your stories. I hope you can keep holding off the river.

    Thanks for the coverage of the story. MPR is the best. We hope you will continue your coverage over the weekend.

  • Bob Collins

    Thanks, Casey. I kinda figured Hoss would be there tonight. I’ll probably be up by around 11 or so. If they want me to stop and pick anything up, just send me an email to