Entering the flood zone

Entering the flood zone

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Oct 01, 2011

MINOT, N.D. — An extremely snowy winter followed by a very wet spring gave residents in the small town of Minot, N.D., an idea a flood was coming, but the damage left by back-to-back floods this summer was unimaginable.

About 11,000 residents were forced from their homes and around 4,100 houses were destroyed. Businesses were closed, some for good. The start of school was delayed due to the loss of three elementary schools and a junior high school, and even now students are returning to modular trailers instead of classrooms to receive their education.

Yet residents in Minot, which is located 101 miles north of Bismark, are starting to rebuild their lives, their homes, and in some cases, their businesses. Dr. Amy Wall and her husband, Dr. Tyler Hunsker, both Iowa State graduates, are attempting to rebuild all three.

Just like the rest of Minot, Wall and Hunsker hoped the town was safe from flooding. The last big flood occurred in 1969, and the city built three dikes to stop the Souris River, which runs through the middle of town, from overflowing again. When the huge rainstorms began on Memorial Day, those hopes quickly diminished.

On May 31, the West Oak Animal Hospital, a mixed-animal practice, began the arduous task of dismantling. All of the contents of the clinic were removed with the help of staff, clients, friends and family of Wall and Hunsker. A barricade was built around the building.

All the while, Wall and Hunsker were removing the contents of their basement due to the imminent flooding of their home. The couple's accountant and her assistant even came to dig out the perennials Wall had planted around her home.

The first flood left the clinic intact. The couple's home flooded in the basement, but since everything had been removed, damage was minimal. They were able to set up shop in their garage, where they worked filling prescriptions for clients for about a week until they were able to get back into the clinic.

A couple of weeks later on Father's Day, a media conference was called. City officials presented residents with ominous news. Canada, located just an hour north of Minot, was hit with a huge rainstorm. Instead of the Souris River flowing through town, Minot was going to have a lake.

Twenty-four hours after that devastating news, Wall and Hunsker once again had everything cleared out of their practice.

The next day, the clinic was gutted. Cabinets were removed. Window frames were taken down. Even the door jams were salvaged. A mandatory evacuation was ordered the next day.

Three days after the media conference, water submerged most of Minot. The West Oak Animal Hospital was under eight feet of water, causing $150,000 in damages. Wall and Hunsker's home, which they share with their 7- and 5-year-old sons, was submerged under five feet of water, also causing about $150,000 in damages. While the couple had flood insurance on the home, they did not have it on the clinic. Now, they do.

"It was a war zone," Wall recalls. "Our town was split in half. There was one road in and out of town that they struggled to keep open. An emergency hospital had to be opened on the one side of town because people couldn't get to the hospital on the other side of town. An emergency grocery store was opened, too. But they did maintain that road."

The Souris Valley Animal Shelter set up an emergency shelter for pets of families forced to evacuate. The shelter remained open for more than two months, closing on Aug. 30, after having cared for 600 pets. The Pinkerton Animal Hospital assisted with the shelter.

The Minot Veterinary Clinic also had to shut down for a brief period of time due to the floods. The small-animal portion of the clinic was shut down for two weeks after the first flood, as clients couldn't make it to their appointments, says Sharon Neshem, office manager. The large-animal portion of the practice shut down for a day or two half-days because of the flooding. A veterinarian at that practice also suffered damage to his home.