MSUM Professor Reflects on Students’ Response to Flood

BY: Geneva Nodland,

MSUM played a large role in the past few weeks with the flood frenzy surrounding the FM area.
Last Tuesday, April 2, MSUM hosted a community flood information meeting in the CMU Ballroom. Moorhead city engineer, Dr. Bob Zimmerman, spoke about past flood incidents like the spring of 2009, and educated the community on where the city is at today with its ability to fight against flooding. 

One of MSUM’s own attended. Deb White, professor of sociology and criminal justice, is also on the city council for ward three. White joined city council in 2000 and has been a council member for 19 years.
“As council members I think a lot of our job is just to make sure that people get their questions answered,” White said. “To help put them at ease, and let them know the things that are being done to make sure the city is safe, but leaving the real expert stuff up to people like Dr. Zimmerman.”

Dr. Zimmerman assured community members that this year wouldn’t be like the last after he showed graphs and tables that compared the 2009 and 2019 weather conditions and their consequences. He ended the night by saying that the situation is “very manageable” due to the preventions taken after 2009 and the efforts of the community members.

After the flood in 2009, the city took action in preparing for the next, whenever that may be. The city thought that this spring would be close to that of ’09, but with what many are calling “perfect melting conditions” the emergency has been called off.  


Woodland Park in Moorhead on April 5, 2019

According to—a website featuring flood reaction plans—the ongoing flood efforts to protect Fargo, West Fargo and Moorhead from extreme flooding have an estimated cost of $2.75 billion.
Since the 1997 flood, the area has been working to develop strategies and preparation plans for all areas of both cities.

Four wards make up Moorhead. Ward three, represented by White, stretches from the northern to southern section of Fifth Avenue to 11th Street, including MSUM’s Center for Business. 

As much work for the community as she does off campus, White does her part on campus as well.
“One of the big things I was doing more as my role as a professor is encouraging students to go out and sandbag,” White said. “In fact, I brought it up in a lot of classes to make sure they knew.”
In 2009, White saw the effects the flood had on not only the community, but also the campus. That year the administration was forced to shut down campus in order to try to take some pressure off the already backed up sewage system.

“MSUM’s role is just being part of the community …,” White said. “I was here in 2009, and it was, for the large part, the students that saved the community. I’m not trying to be boastful, but it was our students—MSUM, Concordia, high school students—showing up and doing that heavy labor.” 

White remembers that everybody felt the effects of the 2009 flood. Whether directly affected or not, seeing the community threatened still had an impact. She compared the city to a war zone.
“It was pretty surreal when you would see helicopters flying around and trucks going with loads of people going back and forth,” she said. 

Engaging the students then and now is important to White, as well as letting them know where they can get more information. She pointed out that if students haven’t been through a flood like this before, it could be very intimidating. 

White wants students to know what is happening and the opportunities they have to give back.
“I know how great our campus can be at being a good neighbor,” White said.
At this time, sandbagging is still on pause. The city is confident that if there is more aid needed, the community, MSUM included, will step in.

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