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Downtown Grand Forks looks like its been through a battle.

Estimating the Damage in Grand Forks
By Mark Zdechlik
April 29, 1997


Flood-ravaged communities up and down the Red River, are sizing up damage to their towns, trying to figure out how much it's going to cost to repair roads and bridges, and sewer, gas, electric, and water lines. The cost is certain to be hundreds of millions of dollars. Grand Forks North Dakota, sustained some of the heaviest flood damage and, as the water continues to recede, local officials are beginning to slowly find out just what it's going to take to put their city back together. And as the work continues on a municipal level , so to do recovery efforts among homeowners and businesses.

DOWNTOWN GRAND FORKS looks like its been through a battle.


Just above tree tops and buildings, disaster officials aboard military helicopters survey this post-flood city. Two blocks of downtown incinerated at the height of the high water. There are the shattered storefront plate glass windows and mud and garbage left everywhere by the raging river. Streets that were covered with flood water. . . virtually ALL of Grand Forks is crumbling in places; power lines are down, and no one knows the extent of the invisible, underground damage to water and sewer pipes. What's easy to understand, after even a short time in Grand Forks, is why the city officials are already predicting it'll cost all of a quarter of a billion dollars just to repair infrastructure the flood ruined.


Ken Veein heads up the Public Works Department. He says the city is hiring consultants in hopes of getting a handle on what can be repaired and what has to be replaced. From bridges and roads to water and sewer lines, Veein has been telling the community through reporters that putting Grand Forks back together is going to happen on a piecemeal basis. And Veein says the city won't know how long it'll take until crews are far enough into repair work so they can accurately assess damage.


Veein says it'll be weeks before Grand Forks residents can safely drink water right out of the tap.


Bob Cafield is a name and a face in the devastation of the downtown Grand Forks business district. His business is Cafield Studios.


Cafield is worried many small businesses like his will close their doors forever in the wake of the flood. As for himself he's eager to start turning the situation around.



Throughout the city big front-end loaders are now breaking apart the tons of earth they brought in days earlier in an unsuccessful effort to dike the Red River. Groupings of portable toilets are another common site throughout the city. And now, so are homeowners embarking in the initial cleanup - they're pumping out basements, emptying sandbags, and collecting what the flood left behind.



Larry Schumacher lives four blocks from the Red River near downtown Grand Forks. As soon as he gets his basement pumped he'll go back to his job as a plumber.


Schumacher expects as Grand Forks residents begin to take back control of their homes and neighborhoods, they'll start looking beyond the immediate situation and look for long-term collective solutions to make sure they'll never have to go through a flood like this one again.


Grand Forks plumber and flooded-out homeowner, Larry Schumacher.

Return to Flood of 1997.