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20th Anniversary of the 1997 Red River Flood


For many Minnesotans, the spring of 1997 is a stark memory of catastrophic, costly flooding along the Red River. Water as deep as 54 feet spilled three miles inland to flood entire towns. One of the hardest hit communities was East Grand Forks, Minn., where 99 percent of homes were affected by the disaster, and the entire city’s population had to be evacuated due to the rapidly rising waters.

Such a large recovery was hard fought and long-term, requiring the coordination of many to get it done. Local, state and federal agencies, along with voluntary agencies, community organizations, local businesses and residents were all a critical part of the rebuilding process.  This table provides a snapshot of how the recovery evolved in East Grand Forks and across the state of Minnesota.


20 Years Later: A Resilient Recovery After Catastrophe

“It was like living in a war torn city – you get so caught up in your story. Everyone was living their own unique, chaotic story.”
Stephanie Larson, Homeowner, East Grand Forks

“From the moment that floodwaters came over the tops of all our dikes and flowed through our entire community until now, East Grand Forks has seen an amazing renaissance.
-Mayor Steve Gander, East Grand Forks

“Those of us in East Grand Forks always believed we could beat the flood. Even when the situation progressed to the point where there was no chance of winning, many of us never accepted defeat. We had lost a battle but never the war.  The setback only made us more determined than ever to bounce back.”
-Warren Strandell, Polk County Minnesota Commissioner

“That deployment is one of the most memorable of my long career. Events like this are ‘life markers’ and they don’t go away. When people ask ‘Where were you on this day?’ you always remember the answer. That’s what this flood was.”
-Ron Sherman, Federal Coordinating Officer for DR-1175

Geographic Information

Map Journal of the 1997 Red River Flood in Minnesota

Financial Assistance Facts

Mitigation Stories

East Grand Forks Accelerated Acquisition Program- Full Mitigation Best Practice Story

City of Moorhead Acquisition- Full Mitigation Best Practice Story

East Grand Forks: Red River Flood Management Using an Invisible Flood Control Wall  (page 44)

Additional Information

USGS 1997 Red River Flood Photos

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources: Climatic Conditions and the Resulting 1997 Spring Floods

Last Updated: 
08/14/2018 - 09:55