FLOOD FIGHTERS: Red River teacher gives students a flood primerAbout this series
Another flood fight is upon us. For some, protected by permanent dikes or diversion, it may be a fight waged primarily by professionals and elected officials and serenely ignored by most others. But in some places, as in Grand Forks-East Grand Forks in 1997, it could be the equivalent of total war, where everyone has a role to play. We begin today an occasional series of portraits designed to introduce over the next few weeks a sample of “flood fighters” in our midst, reflecting the broad and varied engagement a major flood flight requires of the people. They may fight the flood with sandbags. They may be armed with charts and maps — or spoons and spatulas. They may do their thing far from the river. But they are all flood fighters.
By: Chuck Haga, Grand Forks Herald
In a classroom at Red River High School, with ducks and geese suspended from the ceiling, walleye and perch and pike swimming above a long table, and the furs and skeletons of bear, bison, fox and other critters adorning the walls, Scott Berge is introducing another class of students to the science, charm and challenge of rivers.
His students have charted peak flows on the Red River from 1882 to 2010. They have mapped regional drainage systems, and they have huddled over a coffee table mock-up of a “waffle” flood control system.
They have learned about drought, too.
“These students all were born in 1992 or 1993, and they know nothing but excess water,” Berge said. “But we’re going to have dry years again at some point.”
With data on rivers and streams and drainage systems, and with a historical understanding of water and topography of the Red River Valley, they will be better equipped to understand and face what happens this spring, and next, and many springs to come.
“In 1979, I was in the first grade, and my grandmother lived at 1424 Belmont Road,” Berge said. “I remember helping to put up a 7-foot ring dike to protect her house. Well, I remember trying to help.
“I wasn’t scared of the flood. But I was confused. What’s going on? What’s going to happen to grandma’s house? And I remember asking, ‘Hey Dad, who are all these people? Friends of yours?’ And my dad said, ‘No, they’re strangers who are here out of the kindness of their hearts, helping Grandma’s house.’ ”
(Berge said his father also had to tell him that the donuts offered by the Red Cross from a wagon parked near his grandmother’s house were for all the flood fighters, not just him.)
He had a more active role in flood fighting two years ago, not long after his family moved into a house in the Burke Addition.
“It will be different this year,” he said, because more homes are protected by clay dikes. “We’re much better off there now.”
And everybody understands a little better now, he said, what rivers, streams and coulees can do.
Reach Haga at (701) 780-1102; (800) 477-6572, ext. 102; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.