Refugees of the Red
Thursday, April 4, 2013
Residents along the Red River battled severe flood waters on this date in 1943, as muddy water poured into houses and businesses. Riverside residential areas of Fargo and Moorhead faced the worst of the crisis, with nearly three hundred families forced from their homes.
The Marsh family of Moorhead was one such victim of the flood; the family of eight watched as their 4th Avenue home was engulfed by the rising Red. With the first floor completely submerged, the family moved into the Fargo home of Mr. Marsh’s brother. But soon, however, the brother’s home was also submerged, and both families were forced to evacuate to an emergency shelter set up by the Red Cross at the Moorhead Armory.
As the river rose between April 4th and April 6th, the Fargo Forum sent reporters to conduct a census of the flood’s damage. Reporters counted 221 homes in Fargo-Moorhead that were submerged past the first floor, while hundreds of others fought flooded basements. Businesses were also pumping water and hoping to stay afloat, as the river crept only feet below Moorhead’s Center Avenue.
The Veteran’s Hospital built last-minute bulkheads to save its power supply as the water rose eight feet above the floor of the hospital’s powerhouse. On April 6th, water began seeping through the bulkheads, and had to be continuously pumped out. The hospital’s greenhouse and garages were already underwater, with only the roof ventilator of one garage visible above the river.
Largely submerged to the south, St. John’s Hospital was forced to evacuate the majority of its patients to St. Luke’s. Only twenty-five patients remained during the flood, most of whom were newborn babies.
Power to the entire city of Moorhead also became an issue, as workers at the Moorhead power plant, threatened with a shutdown, began bracing the structure’s walls on April 4th. On April 7th, the river finally crested at Fargo, causing a city-wide sigh of relief.
Dakota Datebook written by Jayme L. Job
Dill, Joseph (ed.). 1988 North Dakota: 100 Years: p. 76. The Forum Publishing Company: Fargo, ND.
The Fargo Forum and Daily Tribune. Wednesday (Morning ed.), April 7, 1943; p. 1.
http://www.redriverbasincommission.org/hydrology_report.PDF (pp. 3-7).