Remembering the Grand Forks Flood: Bismarck welcomes displaced families

Published: May. 14, 2017 at 7:41 PM CDT
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Twenty-years ago today, more than 60-thousand North Dakotans and Minnesotans were suddenly homeless.

On April 18th, 1997, the flooding Red River forced the evacuation of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, leaving ten-percent of the state's population displaced.

Flood victims sought shelter with friends, family, and strangers in towns, cities, and farms, as they waited for the water to recede.

Civil defense sirens wailed while flood water rushed through the streets of Grand Forks.

On April 18th, 1997, one of the largest peacetime evacuation in U.S. history began when dikes protecting the city from the swelling Red River, caved in and crumbled.

Displaced families immediatly began scattering across the state. The Capital City community welcomed dozens of flood victims with open arms.

Kerry Marti, Grand Forks flood victim, said, "They made you feel special and that they wanted to help take care of you, so it was rather emotional."

Bill and Kerry Marti and their three children spent three weeks in Bismarck.

Bill Marti, Grand Forks flood victim, said, "You're really living in the moment, because the waters are rising. This was an ongoing emergency that just got bigger and bigger."

While in Bismarck, Brian and Leah Marti were embraced by Cathedral School.

They were given uniform sweatshirts and invited to escape the trauma of being displaced by resuming their studies alongside other students at Cathedral.

Elizabeth Gross, former Cathedral principal, said, "This was just one small way we could help and I think as a school community we always embrace the Mother Teresa idea, 'Can we do small things with great love,' this really was just one small thing that took place in the grand scheme of events."

The Marti's say they especially remember a community dinner held at the Civic Center for displaced families from Grand Forks.

They recall being overwhelmed by all the neighbors they met there, and will never forget the kindness shown them during those traumatic weeks of April and May, 1997.