Souris River leaves many homeless
MINOT -- Michael Robinson moved to Minot this past fall to reap the benefits of the oil boom. Now, he's homeless.
Robinson was among the more than 80 families to find refuge at the Minot Auditorium shelter Wednesday afternoon after being forced to evacuate from his home due to the rising Souris River.
Janel Schmitz, executive director of Bismarck's West Dakota Red Cross, said they're prepared to shelter 2,000 people at two locations in Minot.
"That is a high estimate for us, but we'd rather be overprepared," she said.
Wednesday afternoon the auditorium was only half full, and despite the sun shining outside, many were sleeping, blankets pulled over their heads.
Robinson and his friend, Crystal Jones, however, were sitting upright on their double-sized air mattress, still in awe of the situation.
"It's just so surreal. You're usually watching it on TV," Jones said. "You think 'Well, that would really suck.' And hello. It does."
In December, Robinson purchased a home along the Souris River and convinced Jones of St. Cloud, Minn., to move out, too.
"He told me 'Come out to Minot. There's a lot of jobs out here.' And I needed a job, so I came out here in December," she said. "And now look. Say hello to being homeless."
The two roommates evacuated their home Wednesday afternoon and arrived at the Red Cross shelter shortly before the evacuation sirens sounded about 1 p.m. Now, they don't know if they can ever return to their home.
"I'm pretty much convinced that I won't come back to a house," Robinson said.
The Red Cross has opened a second shelter at the Minot State University sports facility and is still managing one in Burlington.
During Minot's first evacuation a few weeks ago, the shelters only received a combined 130 residents. Now, Red Cross officials said they are expecting a much larger influx of people.
Robinson said he didn't think twice about buying a home on the river because it hadn't flooded like this in decades.
"I was enjoying my house. I just bought a basketball hoop. It took me all my days off to get that thing erected," Robinson said. "And then it started raining."
Some residents ended up bringing their entire beds to the shelter, box spring and all. Dale Legrand, a Minot resident for 10 years, said because of health issues, he needed to lug in his Sleep Number mattress.
It was one of the few things he was able to grab before the siren pulled him from his home in Parkview Trailer Park on Wednesday morning.
"If it hadn't of been for several people, who are angels, I would have never made it," he said.
Legrand said his neighborhood flooded quickly, and even though he was assisted by several community members, he was still forced to leave around $15,000 worth of clothes and personal items in his home when the sirens sounded.
He doesn't suspect he will ever get a chance to retrieve them.
"My front door is across the street from the Mouse River," he said. "My place is lost."
Legrand said he planned on staying in Minot, just moving farther from the river.
The local Red Cross received aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency since the first evacuation in Minot. Now that a second evacuation has been called, more aid has been provided from several organizations and companies, including Target, which provided several pallets of water bottles and craft kits for children.
Red Cross officials said they plan to keep the shelters open for two weeks and will receive assistance from the national organization during that time. Six official Red Cross volunteers have already arrived from Bismarck, bringing with them three U-Haul trucks full of supplies. Officials said many others have arrived and offered to volunteer. A Red Cross registered nurse and mental health evaluators are also on staff in the shelters.
Burgess is a reporter at the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.