10 Years Later: The Great Red River Flood of 1997

Last week marked the 10 year anniversary Flood of 1997 in Grand Forks. Local and regional media outlets have been featuring coverage for at least several months now, often providing day-by-day flashbacks of the events that transpired. Somewhat surprising to me, Minnesota Public Radio seems to have some of the best online resources on their website, including a time line and audio and video.

I was a senior in high school when all of this was happening in Grand Forks 10 years. I went to school in Oklee, a small town of about 400 people an hour east of GF. The winter leading up to the flood was the worst I can remember, with a minority of our school weeks cut short a day or two because of the weather. I even had a chance to do a fair amount of sandbagging in Red Lake Falls, where they were then transported to Grand Forks, and Thief River Falls.

After I graduated in May, I made frequent trips to Grand Forks in preparation for my freshmen year at UND. It was pretty amazing how fast the cleanup started, especially on campus. We even received frequent letters assuring us that they were “still there”, and that classes were still on for the fall. By the time the semester started, there were very few signs of the water that had been there just five months earlier.

In the 10 years since, Grand Forks has gone through some huge changes. I struggle to think how some of the now-major streets either weren’t paved or even there back then. The downtown area has now been revitalized and has quite a few neat restaurants and business that otherwise never would have been there. The UND campus is also growing like crazy, with a world-class hockey arena, a new wellness center, the Center for Innovation, and new student housing (still under construction).

While I can understand how some people in Grand Forks didn’t want any reminders or events schedule for this anniversary, the city is unquestionably a much better place to live than it was before the flood. The residents put in a lot of hard work after the disaster, and it has paid off. I can’t wait to see where Grand Forks is at 10 years from now!

Update: The Chicago Tribune has an excellent article about Grand Forks after the flood on their website.

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