Herald staffers recall what it was like living in Grand Forks during 1997 flood

Some Grand Forks Herald staffers, who were living in and around Grand Forks during the 1997 flood, but not working for the Herald at the time, took the time to share some of their memories of the flood.

A photo of the Flood of 1997, submitted by Roger Stadstad.

GRAND FORKS — Some Grand Forks Herald staffers, who were living in and around Grand Forks during the 1997 flood, but not working for the Herald at the time, took the time to share some of their memories of the flood. Look for future stories like this in the coming days as the Herald remembers how the community came together during the Flood of 1997.

Adam Kurtz

Adam Kurtz has been promoted to the position of Community Editor at the Grand Forks Herald. (Grand Forks Herald)

Adam Kurtz, the Herald’s community editor and higher education reporter, was in college at UND when the flood hit in 1997. He recalls his memories from that time.

“I was living in a duplex behind Red Ray Lanes at that time. It was a long winter and that final ice storm was the icing on the cake.

“Students had been released from school to help with sandbagging efforts. My friends and I helped. I remember wondering how all those people could be organized into teams. What really helped me was when the university announced that finals were canceled, and your grade at that point was your final grade for the semester. There was no way I was going to do well on the tests, and it wasn't because of the weather.

“My roommates were gone on the day I had to leave our duplex. I watched police officers, I think they were going door-to-door, to tell people to evacuate. I layed down on the couch and waited for them. I must have drifted off because when I woke up, they were gone and water was in the street.


“I went to my parents' home north of town. We didn't have to leave there until a few days later, and when I left, I took my younger brother and our dog out in a canoe. The cars were parked along township roads that were higher than our land. We stayed with family Devils Lake, where I worked (off the books) for a moving company.

“Grand Forks was like a ghost town when I got back. I came back fairly early, and moved into an un-flooded house with different friends on the western side of town. My friends went on some epic road trip across the state and no, there isn't a single hint of jealousy in the first part of that sentence, not an iota.

“After that, I remember working lots of overtime at Players Sport Bar and Grill, which I think was one of the first restaurants to reopen. Eventually it was back to UND. Now I work for the paper that won a Pulitzer Prize for public service in 1998, for their tremendous efforts during the flood.”

Pamela Knudson

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Pam Knudson

Pamela Knudson, the Herald’s features reporter, recalls her memories of the 1997 flood.

“On a couple of nights before the dike broke, I remember the sounds of helicopters hovering overhead while I was trying to get to sleep and wondering what the next day would bring.

In the week before the flood, around town, I remember seeing street and street being blocked off, making travel a bit more difficult -- like a maze one had to maneuver -- and the sight of more and more trucks, humvees and vehicles hauling large equipment. All this unusual equipment, accompanied by men in camouflage clothing and heavy work boots, gave the feeling of a town that was occupied, as if in war. One after another, restaurants and diners closed.

“I live a couple miles from the river, but worried about overland flooding from the south. My townhouse has no basement. On that Saturday morning, I tied my living room drapes up so the hems were a couple feet from the floor; moved what I could to the second story; and placed the dining room chairs on top of the table.

Luckily, when I returned (after several weeks away at my parents' home in the Twin Cities), I was relieved to find there was no damage to my home. The electricity had not been turned off, the clock on my stove was correct, and the only thing I "lost" was a carton of cream, in the fridge, that had gone sour.”

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