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Lael Schmidt: 'It sounded just like a baby ... it was an eerie sound'

Lael Schmidt and his family had been through the flood routine plenty of times. The norm every spring on South Fifth Street in Grand Forks was the water would go up, people would organize to stack sandbags, and then, everything would turn out OK....

Lael Schmidt used a fishing net to capture a wood duck that took up residence in his home during the 1997 flood. He used the tall pole to stabilize himself as he waded through the floodwaters. (Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald)
Lael Schmidt used a fishing net to capture a wood duck that took up residence in his home during the 1997 flood. He used the tall pole to stabilize himself as he waded through the floodwaters. (Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald)

Lael Schmidt and his family had been through the flood routine plenty of times.

The norm every spring on South Fifth Street in Grand Forks was the water would go up, people would organize to stack sandbags, and then, everything would turn out OK. Schmidt thought the 1997 flood would be no different.

"You kept wondering how this would work out, but I was confident it would because it always had," he said.

But when it came time to evacuate, he and his family quickly left, leaving behind their cat, T.J. They thought they would be gone only a short time.

A few days later, Schmidt waded through floodwaters to rescue T.J. As he carried him out, the cat cried and cried.

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"It sounded just like a baby," he said. "It was an eerie sound."

When the family finally returned to South Fifth Street, they found a wood duck had taken up residence in their house.

Schmidt eventually caught the duck, but he wonders what would have happened had the cat and the duck been stuck together while he and his family were away.

"I've often wondered how things would have been different if my cat had been there in the house by itself with a wood duck for seven or 14 days," Schmidt said. "It would have been much messier than it turned out to be."

- Wade Rupard

Related Topics: 1997 FLOOD
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