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7. A Letter from Cathy Haarstad

Cathy was willing to share this letter with us that she wrote to a friend about her experiences after the flooding of Minot, home of Pathfinder, the ND PTI. At this time Cathy and her staff are still without their office, but continue to serve the families they care so much about.

I am well, thank you. It has been quite a summer. We received word, late on June 20th that the city of Minot would flood. Up until that point we had thought about just taking out our computers and then putting things up on shelves. After sleeping on things over night we decided to take out EVERYTHING of value. All of the storage facilities in our community were instantly full. No U-Haul trailers were available either. We had 24 hours to get the job done. We were told that Minot would be a lake. Some how 11 people (staff, family, neighbors and one stranger from the parking lot) came together with us to help. We borrowed carts from the grocery store in the mall and took load after load out to cars, pick-ups and a horse trailer that our neighbors loaned to us. We worked until 8:30 PM. Some people worked until midnight. We took almost everything to my garage which is completely FULL. It was exhausting and AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!! At about 12:38 on June 22nd the sirens sounded and our city flooded. We lost 4,000 homes, 3 schools and many small businesses and a mall. No one died. The national guard was in town for weeks. Only about 300 people ended up in shelters. The rest are living with neighbors, family and friends, in basements, houses and trailer homes. Many families went to lake property to stay for a while. Any home put up on the market sells in about an hour. Driving through town is like entering a war zone in a third world country. Huge piles of refuse sit outside every home in the valley and the stench (there is no polite word for it) is unreal. People are really suffering. No one can tell them whether they should rebuild or not. Most people get about 30,000 from FEMA and have to decide whether to take out a second mortgage on a house that may or may not be worth saving.

It took 3 weeks for the water to go down enough for us to even get back into the business. The water line was chest high with mold growing two feet higher than that. Our landlord has been reluctant to say when and if the building might be repaired. No one knows how long it will take to dry out. They have to remove all the walls down to the studs and then dry them out. Our lease gives them 90 days. So we are moving into a temporary spot that I was lucky enough to find which is a little larger and a little less money. It is nicer in some ways and not so nice in others. So we will see if we can stay there. If they get the building repaired in 90 days we will have to move back.

As you can imagine this has meant a lot of extra work and we have new costs that no one planned on . Our community had only about 400 people with flood insurance. About a third of the city was flooded. We have always been well protected by a series of 3 dams to the north. However, after the first flood in early June, the Corp of Engineers cut back on the amount of flow into the river and the reservoirs filled up. Then Canada got 8 inches of rain and they couldn’t hold back the water any more. The ground is completely saturated here (still, even into August) after 2 record winter snowfalls and a very wet fall. So we flooded unexpectedly. Only with hindsight have people been able to put everything together. I have to use my budget for moving costs so I will not be able to attend this year. I am very sorry. I probably won’t be around until after October 1 as I am up to my eyeballs in alligators.

After seeing so many good friends suddenly become homeless we all certainly realize what priorities are. In the midst of all this, my husband Ken developed 3 tears in his retina and had to have surgery to reattach it. The surgery went well but now they have discovered that he has a hole in the macula that was hidden before and which may need surgery as well. He has needed drops every 2 hours for much of the summer and could not drive until recently. He has a cataract forming in the eye that had surgery too. He is looking forward to the day when he can have that removed and actually get better vision. For now he relies on his good eye – they did some laser surgery on that on Friday to keep a weak spot there from tearing. So all in all it has been quite a summer. On the 23rd of August we are traveling to Green Bay to help my daughter who is moving to Minneapolis. It will be exciting to have her only about 8 hours away.

Everyone I know in town was either evacuated and lost their home or has someone living with them for no one knows how long. Our town was down to 1 route for a while and we had huge traffic jams but most of the routes are open again. You can see a photo of the mall where our office was located at the height of the flood. http://placeblip.com/blip/Minot-Arrowhead-shopping-mall-surrounded-by-water-4th-ave-sw-minot-usa/ or read about the recovery at http://www.kxnet.com/?setCity=min& When you get a flood, you don’t just get water. You get mud, sewage, critters, and mold. Many people had decks and porches that were washed over two blocks away. Basements caved in. We have had many volunteers come to help but there is no place for anyone to stay. Our middle school had 30 walls blown out by the river and the roof collapsed.

I could go on and on. My spirits are good. 300 people came out to sandbag our church and although they had to let the school go they saved the church which was beautiful. Our bishop came on a visit and after a drive through one of the newly opened neighbor hoods they went back and organized daily bus loads of volunteer that come down every day to help. We are all helping each other and no doubt our community will be stronger in the end. The FEMA trailers are arriving and we have a lot of hope.