As I travel around the state and country, I am often asked if the community of Minot has recovered from the Flood of 2011. The reality is, the town has not recovered, and now almost three years later I think it is time the public image of the community response to the flood is changed.
First off, a little related history. In June of 2011, the face of Minot changed forever when the banks of the Souris River hit record flood levels. Over 11,000 residents were forced to abandon over 4,000 homes for the foreseeable future.
During and right after the flood, residents of the community were very proud of the fact that the Minot flood was not like other natural disasters from around the country. One of the stories that was most amazing to the people who came to our city to help, was how few people were living in emergency shelters. At its peak, less than two hundred residents were housed in shelters. Rather than relying on shelters, most flood victims bunked up with their friends or family until more permanent housing could be found. The citizens were very proud of the fact that unlike Katrina, when the Government ordered an evacuation, everybody evacuated, and therefore nobody was killed and no one had to be rescued from their flooding homes.
In the weeks and months after the flood, the community was introduced to FEMA trailers and a couple of small villages known as FEMAvilles. Slowly, a vast majority of people returned to more permanent housing. Some people moved back into their pre-flood homes, some found new housing, and many moved into the large number of brand new houses that were available in our growing community.
To say the least, the community became very fond of how they made it through such a disaster.
I no longer think the community has much to brag about. We may have performed well in the immediate response to the flood; however, we have failed to effectively and efficiently recover. It is a problem caused both by lack of personal responsibly by private landowners and by inaction by local decision makers.
Every morning on my drive to work, I drive through the flood zone. On this drive, I am made painfully aware that this community is not “back” from the flood, In fact, many flooded homes have not been touched in the past three years.
These abandoned properties have been nicknamed “zombie” home. These zombie homes are boarded-up, mold-ridden and debris-infested properties that have been left in disarray post flood. According to reports, there are around 300 zombie homes throughout the community. Perhaps the most amazing thing about these zombie homes is that the city of Minot has had a significant housing shortage in the post flood era, and even these flooded homes had significant value. However, the property owners have done the most irresponsible thing possible, and just left them alone.
Now, we are starting to bear the cost of this as a community. Already, the City of Minot has dedicated $74,000 in sales tax revenue to cleaning up the “worst” of these properties. As part of that process, the city has devoted many man hours of time to exploring and evaluating the condition of these properties. Let me tell you something, $74,000 is not going to begin to cover the long term cost to the community. The city has already called in US Congressman Kevin Cramer to check into the possibility of additional federal funds to meet the expected cost of dealing with these zombie homes.
These zombie homes are also hurting those who have fixed up their properties. Many fixed and maintained flooded homes are now for sale, and are sitting next to zombie homes. I am not a real estate expert, but I really don’t think a zombie home for a neighbor is a good selling point.
The city of Minot has over 24 nuisance violations listed in city ordinance. It is time the City gets aggressive in enforcing these ordinances. The time for sitting back and waiting and hoping for the building owners to deal with these problems is over.