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Grand Forks Recovers
Downtown Grand Forks
Downtown is still rebuilding

WHAT WAS IT LIKE?

Despite the floods, Grand Forks schools are back in session. Some students are taking classes in the basement of a church until their school is rebuilt.
Has life gotten back to normal? Here is your chance to play reporter and ask the students of Grand Forks questions about their experiences. Click here to ask a question, or send a message....

Grand Forks Headline
The Grand Forks Herald
publishes through the flood.

Grand Forks Headline
Some of the Herald reporters lost their own homes to the flood... Click here to read their story
Click here to hear President Clinton's speech to the people of Grand Forks.
What do you do with a city full of water? After the flood goes down, the first thing you do is pump the water out of the buildings. All the wet personal stuff, clothing, photos, books, stuffed animals and toys, has to be thrown out. Then you haul out the furniture and appliances, rip up the carpet, and remove the shelves and cabinets.

The next part smells. Everything has to be scrubbed with chlorine bleach to remove the contaminants that gather in flood waters. Residents say the city still smells like bleach five months after the flood. The debris left by the flood in Grand Forks totaled 112,000 tons. That was 224 million pounds of garbage.

The Grand Forks Herald fire.

One of the most destructive aspects of the flood was the fire, not water. Power lines that were knocked down by the water short-circuited and caused raging fires that were hard to control. In one case, flames destroyed the Grand Forks Herald newspaper building. In the time it takes to read a long article, 117 years of local history were ruined.

"It makes me want to cry," said Jenelle Stadstad, the Herald's librarian. But instead of moping, the staff of the Herald went to work. Stadstad called her old elementary school principal in the small town of Manvel, North Dakota.

Survival via the internet.

Soon the newspaper staff was back in school-- publishing the paper via internet from the Manvel High School, ten miles north of Grand Forks.

Imagine, going to school while reporters and editors race through the halls, trying to get their jobs done on time. The photo department set up shop next to the drums in the music room. And on the first day, members of the paper staff were standing outside the school smoking cigarettes and drinking beer. (They soon realized that they were setting a bad example and stopped.)

There was an upside for some students. They got to work with the editors, writing flood updates. They learned first-hand the pressures of the newspaper business.

And, by publishing on the internet, the Grand Forks Herald missed only one day of production.

But the loss of the paper's historical records left many with an empty feeling. To fill the gap, a new generation of historians has stepped forward to create their own history. In the Living History Project, organized by Technology Facilitator Cindy Grabe, students will go out with cameras and take quicktime movies as downtown Grand Forks rebuilds.

Using technology to record and remember.

During the flood, a Webcam of the flooded scene was accessed from all over the world. "Someone who was familiar with Grand Forks knew where the camera was, and could understand what we were fighting," Grabe says. Now, students will focus the Webcam on downtown, perhaps the Herald building, to watch and record the rebuilding process. Grabe says the site will not be fancy, but will concentrate on capturing content and making history.

The residents of Grand Forks realize that you can't count on the national news media to accurately document your history. Cindy Grabe recalls watching Peter Jennings point to a map that had South Dakota above North Dakota and Minnesota on the wrong side. On one morning news program, the anchor described the Red River as flowing south to Fargo, North Dakota. In truth, the Red River is the only river in the United States that flows north. It flows from Fargo, which is up river from Grand Forks, to Canada, which is down river.

Why would students want to remember the painful flood? For five weeks, they were physically cut-off from the community. They were sent to shelters, or to live with out of town relatives. Friends were scattered and for those who remained, most buildings and playgrounds were unsafe. There wasn't much time to talk about people's fears and feelings. The Living History Project will help students sort out their experiences. Cindy Grabe sums it up this way: "For adults, the flood was a life-defining moment. For the rest of our lives it will be before the flood and after the flood. Perhaps for young people it will be different. It will also be fun for they to look back at what they did five years from now."

The living history project is supported by a donation of software and equipment from Apple Computer and a challenge grant from the Department of Education.

Interview with the Pat Owens, Mayor of Grand Forks

Q:What was effect of the flood on the lives of students?

A:When the flood came, school stopped immediately. Everybody had to just stop. Their whole lives were disrupted. Graduation didn't happen till June. The prom was delayed, and we didn't think we would have a prom until the Grand Forks Air Force volunteered to host it at the base.
(The group Soul Asylum agreed to play for free)

Q:How has the experience changed the young people of Grand Forks?

A:It made them a lot stronger, closer to their families. It helped us all realize what 's valuable, that you can't control everything. It also strengthened their faith. There's a lot of faith in those young people.

Q:What message would you give to people who are facing floods today?

A:You have to make the best of a situation, and remember that as a community, you are stronger. It will take a long time to forget. We will feel effects of the flood for five to ten years.


Frozen Flood Cam

Flood Cam shot
of downtown Grand Forks

What's a "Webcam"?

The Webcam in Grand Forks (the Flood Cam) provides a current picture of downtown Grand Forks. It is made from an old, broken video camera that no longer records, but provides an adequate picture.

It is located at the southeast corner of the roof of the Grand Fork Education Center (308 Demers Ave, Grand Forks, ND). It sits in a homemade, all-weather case. You almost have to see it to believe it, but it is basically a modified metal mailbox.

The camera is connected with a coaxal cable to a Macintosh on 3rd floor of GFEC. The first week, I was using a couple of different Applescripts that would capture the image, convert it to a GIF file, and upload the new image to the server. New shareware, MacWebCam is a great program that takes most of the pain out of maintaining the Flood Cam. The capture software is running on a Macintosh LC 5400/120, and the Web server is a Macintosh 7250/120 with 50megs of RAM running Webstar 1.2 --Darin King, creator of the Flood Cam

Soul Asylum

Publicity about the flood inspired
Soul Asylum to volunteer to play at
the Grand Forks prom for free.
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