Monday, June 27, 2011 — For many in North Dakota, the cresting of the Souris River is only the beginning. More than 4,000 homes are estimated to be flooded, and the water will take weeks to fully recede.
Among the thousands who had to evacuate their homes in Minot and surrounding communities, more than 200 have stayed in Red Cross shelters every night since June 22. On Sunday night, that number remained steady, at 232 people.
Along with the two shelters that had been open in Minot last week, an additional Red Cross shelter was opened in the community of Turtle Lake on Saturday due to the evacuation of Velva, N.D., which was cut off from Minot by the floods.
Watching and waiting is now the name of the game—and for the many families who do not have flood insurance, it is an even more stressful time. Fortunately, residents at the Red Cross shelters have a place to sleep and food to eat, but they also have some much-needed emotional support.
“Slow-motion disasters” such as floods can take a great emotional toll on people because they can take weeks to unfold. In these situations, helping disaster survivors cope with an extended period of stress becomes even more important.
"Everybody has a great story and they're all handling it in a different way, but folks are pretty stressed,” said Marcia Martin, a Red Cross disaster mental health worker at one of the Minot shelters. “The crisis is ongoing, and people will not be able to go to their homes. So much is still unknown.”
Along with providing a listening ear, Red Cross workers help residents stay positive, focus on what steps they can take, and help them gather information about assistance and resources they may need during their recovery.
Just knowing they are not alone is reassuring for many residents. "It's a comfort for people to come here and see people who care," said Red Cross disaster relief worker Evelyn Hildebrand.
Donna Young, a resident staying at one of the Red Cross shelters in Minot, echoed that thought. “You have no idea how miserable I was until now. Landing here was my lucky day," she said.
Those who want to help can make a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. This gift enables the Red Cross to prepare for and provide shelter, food, emotional support and other assistance in response to disasters. Visit www.redcross.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS; you can also text the word “REDCROSS” to 90999 to make a $10 donation. Contributions may also be sent to local American Red Cross chapters or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.