MINOT, N.D. – Chased from their homes by rising floodwaters and bunking with friends, clergymen Mike Johnson and Mike Pancoast did what seems to come naturally to folks around here: They hopped into a car and headed for a nearby town to help others evacuate.
“There are people who need help and they need it now and we’re able to do it, so let’s go,” Johnson said Saturday before hitting the road for the North Dakota town of Velva, about 20 miles downstream from Minot, where the Souris River was nearing its peak after swamping an estimated 4,000 homes. The National Weather Service predicted the river’s crest today would be 2 feet lower than earlier projected, welcome news in the battered community.
Stories of people helping one another, often without being asked and demanding nothing in return, were a heartwarming counterpoint to the destruction from unprecedented flooding along the Souris valley in north-central North Dakota. Brought together by word of mouth, church and civic networks, social media and random encounters, those with housing and supplies to spare gave willingly to those without.
So many opened their doors that while some 11,000 people were evacuated from neighborhoods nearest the river, only a few hundred used shelters at Minot State University and the City Auditorium.
“For the rest of the country, that is kind of mind-boggling. But … that’s how we are in North Dakota,” U.S. Sen. John Hoeven said.
A Facebook page called “Minot ND Flood Help” drew volunteer offers to haul furniture, care for pets, clean laundry and even give therapeutic massages – many from outside town.
Patrica Eide, of Tioga, about 85 miles west, posted an offer to loan her 30-foot camper to a displaced family. It quickly drew a taker: a man with a wife and three children who were living in their van since being evacuated.
“We could probably rent that thing for $500 a month, but I told my husband there’s no way I’m going to be greedy,” Eide, 62, said by phone. “God just had better plans for our camper than renting it.”