GRAND FORKS — Within hours of emergency cleanup operations opening, more than 40 people throughout the Red River Valley already had called to get help moving waterlogged furniture, hauling out soaked carpets or pumping standing water in their basements from the extreme storms on Friday and Saturday, said Grand Forks Emergency Management Director Kari Goelz.
Goelz said she’s not exactly sure how many homes were damaged by the storm, but the destruction is heavy and widespread, partially because of how fast the storm moved into the area.
“Nobody was expecting it, and you can’t really – you never know how everything is going to fare until you get something like this,” she said. “And I think people can begin to appreciate what’s happening now in Texas and along the eastern seaboard with those tropical storms where they’re getting 15, 20 inches. We got a little over 5, and we’re in a pickle.”
The storm dropped 5.29 inches of rain on the city and scattered even more throughout the region. The National Weather Service said Northwood, N.D., was hit the hardest, with 8.73 inches.
The downpour caused flash flooding. Lt. Derrick Zimmel of the Grand Forks Police Department said numerous roads were closed temporarily, including a portion of Interstate 29, and officers were called to several reports of stranded or stalled cars.
“I think any time you get that much water coming down, the storm drains are going to take a little bit to get that water moved,” he said.
A collection of businesses, nonprofits and individual volunteers are organizing cleanup efforts on behalf of Grand Forks. The Upper Red River Valley Community Organizations Active in Disasters is helping people who otherwise have little support.
Goelz said she expects calls for help to continue pouring into COAD.
“It’s getting to the point now that we’re over 72 hours in, and these wet basements are going to begin to mold,” she said. “It’s really critical for us to help these folks so they don’t fall through the cracks. We have a lot of elderly and a lot of disabled people calling for help.”
Recovery time will depend on how many volunteers respond. Right now, Goelz said she’s trying to find enough people to help clear the damage – she’s reached out to the Salvation Army, Red Cross and even UND to try to find volunteers. Goelz said volunteers are needed during any daytime hours and anyone interested can call (701) 780-1267. Homeowners in Grand Forks or Polk County can request help by calling the same number.
This week, East Grand Forks and Grand Forks garbage services will be collecting extra trash caused by cleanup. Carpet, drywall and furniture damaged during the flooding will be picked up next to garbage cans at no extra cost. Items also can be dropped off at the landfill for free.
National Weather Service meteorologist Amanda Lee warned there could be more precipitation throughout the week. Showers are expected throughout the region on Tuesday, Sept. 24, starting near Devils Lake and moving through Grand Forks as the day continues.
Tuesday’s gloomy weather shouldn’t impact the recovery efforts from the weekend storms because Lee said there’s very little precipitation expected – possibly only a few hundredths of an inch. But storms on Thursday and Friday could further hinder efforts with an extra quarter- to half-inch of rain expected, Lee said.
“Stay aware for any kind of additional rainfall we do get because there’s still a lot of standing water out there, and the ground is really, really wet so it can’t absorb all of that rainfall here very quickly,” she said.
Lee advised homeowners to make sure sump pumps are working.
“Just keep an eye on the forecast,” she said. “And if rain is just dumping and dumping on your location, keep an eye on your basement.”