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Flood 2009

Please join us as we pray for the successful efforts during the 2009 flood.

Holy St. Joseph, faithful Guardian of the Redeemer and Spouse of the Virgin Mary, we humbly and confidently beseech your intercession and help. So trustworthy are you that God the Father entrusted you with His greatest treasures, Jesus His beloved Son and Mary His Blessed Mother. Therefore, with sure and grateful confidence, we now entrust ourselves and all that we have to you so that you may watch over us, protect us, and obtain for us all that the Father wants us to receive. May you guard over Cardinal Muench Seminary, all the people of the Red River valley, and provide for all our temporal needs. Protect from harm all who assist us in this hour of danger. May all that we do be in harmony with the will of God and for His greater glory. Amen.

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CMS is Saved by “An Act of God”

On March 25th, the Feast of Annunciation, — the celebration of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ — colder weather not only brought snow, but substantially slowed down the melting of the snow that was already on the ground. Because of this event the record flooding in Fargo in 2009 was not as bad as it could have been. On March 28th the Red River reached a new historical high of 40.82 feet.

“Cold and chill bless the Lord!” – Daniel 3:67

The second crest on April 17th was 34 feet, and was not a threat to the Cardinal Muench Seminary facility.

Read more details below.

Thank You!

Thank you to everyone for your prayers, words of encouragement and support during the flood crisis of 2009. So many people, both locally and from across the United States, let us know that they were praying for us! We also appreciate the desire of so many to help us out in other ways as well, even if we had to turn down your offers.

Please join us in especially thanking the Lord for His compassion. His goodness was present in so many ways, especially in the hearts of good people both near and far. Deo gratias!

The First Crest

Feast of St. Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary (March 19th)

The National Weather Service and the City of Fargo announce that the Red River is predicted to crest at 40 feet in Fargo. The top of our dike is currently 39 feet. Our action plan:

With these efforts and continual vigilance to the changing situation, we hope to be as prepared as possible.

Friday, March 20th

Notice: All events which were to be held at CMS during the next month are canceled. Organizers must find other locations to hold their events. The annual Knights of Columbus banquet for seminarians will not be held this year.

North Country Contracting has begun adding clay and dirt to our earthen dike.

The seminarians return from their week-long Spring Break on Monday. Little do they know that life will be a little different when they come back.

Saturday, March 21st

Notice: The City of Fargo informational meeting, originally scheduled to be held from 2:00 to 4:00 p.m. at CMS, has been moved to the Armed Forces Reserve Center, 3920 31st St. N.

Notice: As long as the river is above 35 feet we need two volunteers per hour 24 hours a day to patrol the dike protecting CMS and the northeast side of Fargo. If you are able to volunteer, please call our office. You will be responsible for ‘walking the dike,’ that is checking and reporting breeches or places where water may be undermining the dike.

By late morning the construction crew completes the job of raising the dike to a level of 42 feet (photos).

Sunday, March 22nd

The City of Fargo delivers 6,000 filled sand bags.

Monday, March 23rd

At breakfast the rector announces to the seminarians that they should not attend class today, but help build the sandbag dikes to protect critical areas of the seminary. A few hours later North Dakota State University cancels class, and requests that the students go out into the Fargo-Moorhead community to sandbag.

Many thanks to the 35 students and Focus missionaries from the NDSU Newman Center who came and helped us sandbag! With their assistance we were able to construct a ring dike around the storm drain and another dike in front of the garage, the lowest entrance into the facility (photos). Afterward, every one enjoyed pizza, hot chocolate and hot apple cider for lunch, — and then went off to help others.

The City of Fargo closes the sluice gate. Pumping begins and will continue as long as needed. Water from the storm drains collects at the closed gate, so pumps are used to lift it over the dike and into the Red River.

The seminarians and staff begin to prepare for the “worse case” senario, that is, flood waters inundating the facility (additional details and photos).

Tuesday, March 24th

The seminarians keep busy monitoring our pumps, sandbagging for our neighbors (photos), and helping out at the volunteer call center.

Thank you to everyone who has been calling to volunteer to patrol the dike. The schedule is filling up, but there are still open times for those who want to volunteer an hour or two. Special thanks to those who have volunteered for multiple times slots during the middle of the night.

Wednesday, March 25th

The day begins with a winter storm and a few inches of snow, adding to an already critical situation. The cold weather is slowing the snow melt, allowing everyone to take a little bit of a breather before heading out this afternoon to the sandbag. At noon the river is at 35½ feet.

The latest prediction from the National Weather Service states that the Red River will be at record levels. They predict a crest of at least 41 feet (the previous record of 40.1 ft. was on April 7, 1897; in 1997 the river reached a level of 39.57 ft.). The City of Fargo announces that they are raising dikes to at least 43 feet.

It is unfortunate to see families split up: mothers are leaving town with their young children, while fathers stay behind to fight to hold back the water. This is the case with our own maintenance engineer. For the same reason, some people who volunteered to monitor the CMS dike said that they can no longer help, — and we understand. May God bless these families and keep them safe. May they be reunited soon.

Thursday, March 26th

The National Guard worked throughout the night to raise the dike at CMS to a minimum level of 43 feet (photos). Seminarians served coffee, hot chocolate and sandwiches to the two shifts of these dedicated troops.

The National Guard have also assumed the responsibility of patrolling the dike. Thank you to all those who called and volunteered to watch the dike. We will keep your names and phone numbers in case you are needed at a later date.

Notice: We are asking people to stay off the property. Fargo Police are arresting those who climb any dike. With the height of the CMS dike raised, it is impossible to see the river level from the road. With the recent truck traffic, the roads are very muddy and slippery, and the grounds are rutted, making it very difficult to walk through the fields. Additionally, the National Guard occasionally brings in their trucks and bulldozers to build up the dike, please give them the space they need to do their job.

Notice: The CMS telephone trunk is out. Any ‘direct dial’ number to CMS will not connect. A direct dial begins with “271” for example, the direct dial number for the kitchen is 271-1219. All the phone lines to the seminarian rooms are dead. Our main number (232-8969) still works. The telephone company said that they will not be able to service the lines until the flood crisis is over.

Notice: Until further notice, the CMS offices are closed. Lisa will contact faculty and staff when it is determined that they should return. We pray that everyone will remain safe.

Most of the seminarians and resident priests have been evacuated to ‘higher ground’ in Fargo. All unnecessary cars and vehicles are moved off the property. A small number of priests and seminarians are staying behind to monitor the facility, especially the pumps. If need be, they are ready to leave at a moment's notice. Only those vehicles necessary to evacuate the remaining residents are left; they are parked in front of the building and packed with food, water, sleeping bags, etc. If Fargo is evacuated, arrangements have already been made for out-of-town accommodations for all the seminarians and priests.

The librarian, faculty and other staff members are moving valuable equipment, priceless artifacts and school records to safe areas if any flooding should occur.

While the seminarians have been out of school for almost a week, they continue to learn a valuable lesson serving our neighbors. It is an inspiring sight to see the neighborhood unite to help those who need assistance sandbagging their property.

At the end of the day, the staff is dismissed until further notice. Because temporary earthen levies have been constructed on them, some major streets are closed; this and the fact that many people are on the road evacuating the city, it takes some of the staff hours to get home, instead of 20 or 30 minutes. Except for the few cars in front of the building, the parking lots and garages are now empty.

Nursing homes and hospitals in the Fargo-Moorhead area are being evacuated. Sadly, people in south and north Moorhead received bad news: they must evacuate. Water will soon cover roads to these communities, making it impossible to continue fighting the Red in those areas. Parishioners can no longer work to protect St. Francis Church (in north Moorhead); they had time to construct the sandbag dike to a height of a little over 40 feet. At this time, no church in the Diocese of Fargo is expecting substantial flooding.

At 7:15 p.m. the river was at 39.61 feet. It has now surpassed the 1997 level, — and still continues to rise.

The predicted crest level is raised to 42 feet!

At 9:30 p.m. Bishop Aquila was interviewed on local radio. Here is a summary of some of the conversation:

Bishop Aquila encouraged listeners to “focus on God and the presence of God in our lives.”
He noted that some people were already evacuating and said he will evacuate, too, if need be. For those who have lost their homes or possessions due to flood waters, he said comfort comes in knowing “they still have their lives, they still have their families and those are the things that are most important to all of us.”
Bishop Aquila said, “One of the important things we must do is really pray for the virtue of hope and keep our eyes on the future. If it means rebuilding the city, other cities have done it.” He reminded listeners that God will “give us the strength to get through all of this if we keep our focus on him.”
At the end of the interview, Bishop Aquila prayed that God would “protect all human life and all of our families, most especially those who are homeless and elderly” and those who have no one to care for them. He asked God to “help our hearts to be attentive to them and to serving them.” He prayed that God would “bestow upon us all of the graces that we need at this time, to strengthen our faith, our hope and our charity, that we may know that He is with us, that He will protect our cities, our counties” and all of the areas where flooding is occurring.

Earlier this week Bishop Aquila issued a Flood Statement in which he said:

“During this time we must first turn in prayer to God that He will protect our families, our homes, and our communities. Prayer to the Holy Spirit for the gifts of wisdom and counsel is essential too in the decisions that will need to be made in the days ahead. I ask especially those in the diocese who live outside of the affected areas to increase your prayer, praying that those in the center of the flood fight will be protected and may experience the peace only Gods love can give.”

Late in the evening, the National Guard came to reinforce the point where the CMS dike joins the golf course levy.

After receiving a briefing on how to shut down of critical equipment, Msgr. Schlesselmann, the rector, let our maintenance engineer leave town to rejoin his family.

Friday, March 27th

At about 2:00 a.m. the Red River set a new all-time record high. It continues to rise, but the cold weather is slowing its climb toward 41 feet.

It is encouraging to see the Army Corps of Engineers and the City of Fargo making frequent visits and working on repairs to make sure the dike holds. Sand bags were added to our neighbor‘s dike to the south.

Snow flurries continue throughout the day, with the sun peeking through the clouds every now and then.

Beginning in the early afternoon a construction company from Alexandria began shoring up the dike (photos). Two bulldozers are working in tandem, while trucks dumped earth. Because of the soft and muddy ground, a dozer needs to push the trucks up to the dike to dump their load, and then pushed back to the road. It is slow but steady progress. This is the third major reconstruction of the dike since it was announced last week that the river level would be dangerously high.

The seminarians continue to volunteer in various efforts. The seminarians staying at the bishop’s residence are out sandbagging. Seminarians at St. Leo’s, Casselton, are cooking and baking for the St. Leo’s staff, as well as the for the over 100 nursing home patients St. Leo’s is housing in their parish hall. Seminarians at the seminary continue their rotation of manning the pumps, as well as completing the task of protecting records and equipment from potential flood water.

Despite all the work, the seminarians in each location have found time to participate in Mass, the Stations of the Cross and other prayer. For the first time in many days, the few remaining priests and seminarians at CMS have had time for a Eucharistic Holy Hour. They pray for the continuing safety of all the people of the Red River Valley.

Saturday, March 28th

It remains cold, but the sun is shining, — and the river is not rising! However, with the record high water level the risk of flooding is still very high.

Rebuilding the dike now puts it at a height of approximately 45 feet.

National Guardsmen have been assigned to continually monitor the CMS and Edgewood Golf Course dikes. The two man patrols work 12-hour shifts.

Very unexpectantly, just before noon the National Weather Service announces that the Red River has crested at 40.82 feet! People are somewhat skeptical, but the Red River continues to slowly recede throughout the day. Of course, this does not mean that we are out of danger. While the main floor of CMS is at about 41 feet, most of our utilities (electrical, plumbing, boiler, etc.) are 4-5 feet lower than that. The rector says that the sandbag dike in front of the garage will remain until the water level goes to down below 35 feet and there is no risk of future flooding. We must continue to pray for those downstream still battling the high water.

Because of severe pain in his foot, Adam went to the Emergency Room. He does not remember hurting it in any way. The doctor said that it is not broken, gave him some pain pills, and told him to stay off of it.

While the activity in Fargo has slowed down, the seminarians in Casselton continue to remain busy, cooking and caring in other ways for the staff and the evacuated nursing home residents. The few seminarians left at the seminary continue to man the pumps, but with the weather remaining cold, they do not have to run them very long.

Msgr. Schlesselmann takes advantage of an opportunity to go up in Fr. Cheney’s small plane to survey the flooding (aerial photos, including an interactive picture). Because Bishop Aquila cannot go, two seminarians, Lee and Jacob, are invited and accept the offer.

Area schools announce that they will remain closed next week.

Sunday, March 29th

A beautiful day: sunny, and not too cold or windy.

Seminarians are free to go home for the rest of the week and return on Friday, April 3rd. The seminarians at CMS have volunteered to stay and work the pumps. No determination has been made as to when the staff should return to work; the faculty should return the week of April 6th.

The National Guard and construction company who have been monitoring the CMS dike, stopped by and loaded up their bulldozers they had parked at CMS. The National Guard are still monitoring the dike, and taking advantage of our hospitality. While there is still a risk of flooding, our spirits are more optimistic today.

With the temperature rising to just above freezing for the first time in a few days, more snow is melting and building up behind the dike, and the seminarians are having to run pumps longer. Adam’s foot is worse today, so he has been dropped from having to go outside and check on the sluice gate.

All the dikes protecting the property are blessed (photos).

Monday, March 30th

A winter storm is coming and bringing between 8 and 12 inches of snow! However, this should not immediately impact the level of the Red River. As snows accumulates the river will continue to recede. At the end of the week, when this new snow begins to melt, the river will rise again, but it should not approach levels experienced during the height of the flood.

Those of us left at the seminary are falling into a daily routine: morning Mass, an evening Holy Hour, and, although there is no school, some study each day. It is similar to our regular schedule, but a slower pace.

Tuesday, March 31st

Snow has fallen all night. Because the temperature has and continues to hover around the freezing point, the snow is very heavy.

The level of the Red River is now below 39 feet, which was the height of our dikes during the flood of 2006 (in that year the river crested at 37.2 feet). The National Guard and Fargo Police continue to patrol the grounds, making sure people stay off the dike. Over the past few days a number of people have been arrested in the city of Fargo for being on dikes. City officials want to make sure the dikes are intact for the second crest.

Although he still walks around with a crutch, Adam says his foot is much better.

Water got to the top of the sandbags protecting St. Francis Church, Moorhead, — but no further. It was built just high enough! Despite the fact that they were forced to evacuate, no water got in any part of their facility.

Wednesday, April 1st

We got about 10 inches of snow in Fargo. Places to the south and west got up to 2 feet! Temperatures are predicted to rise into the upper 30s over the next few days. As the snow melts, it is predicted that that the Red River will rise only slightly. The second crest is predicted for mid-April.

We seem to have shifted into “clean-up” mode. We are moving books, files and computers, which were placed on tables and desk tops when water threatened the facility, back to where they belong.

The road to the back of the building is mud covered and will remain closed. The grounds where trucks and bulldozers drove are a mess. It will take months to get everything back to normal.

Thursday, April 2nd

We welcome back our staff today. They will spend most of the day putting things back where they belong, or cleaning up mud tracked into the building.

The rector and custodian were out using snow plows to clear snow and mud from the parking lots. With temperatures above 32° and a bright sun, driveways and sidewalks are drying out quickly.

The National Guard are 'standing down' today. Many thanks to the men and women who left their family and friends to protect us here in the Red River Valley. At CMS we met service men and women from North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota and Montana.

Friday, April 3rd

Notice: Our offices are re-opened. The seminary’s direct dial “271” numbers are working once again. The phone company has been busy throughout the whole region replacing lines and equipment that were ruined by the flood waters. Today they finally got to the north side of Fargo, and by the afternoon had things fixed.

It has been over one week since most of the seminarians and priests were evacuated. We welcome them back today. With the parking lots filling up, life seems to be getting back to normal. For those who remained, we no longer have to live out of a suitcase or be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. With all the chaos in their lives these past 2 weeks, some of the seminarians said that they are looking forward to the Day of Recollection tomorrow.

At the end of the day, the river level was at about 35½ feet.

Saturday, April 4th

The time of silent prayer during the Day of Recollection prepares us for Holy Week.

Palm Sunday

The seminary priests and seminarians celebrate Palm Sunday with Bishop Aquila at St. Mary‘s Cathedral.

Wednesday, April 8th

The Red River continues to slowly go down, and today it got below 32 feet, a level it has not been for over 2 weeks. Everyone is aware that there is a lot of water still frozen to the south of Fargo. As the temperatures are consistently rising above freezing every day, the melting water will start to make the river rise. How high? Predictions a few days ago seemed to indicate that we could set a new record. However, the prediction today is that although the river will be very high, it will not be enough for a new record. We will have to wait, see, — and pray! Date of the second crest: April 15th - 25th.

The Northern Improvement Company brings over their heavy equipment to widen and level the top of the dike to an even 44 feet across the length of the one half mile long dike (photos). Because the ground is drying out, they are able to get their heavy equipment on top of the dike, — which the other construction were not able to do — to compact the soil.

The level of the Red River during the last month:

Source of charts: U.S. Geological Survey’s National Water Information System

Pictures chronicling the rise of the river at CMS can be found on the River Watch page. Additional photographs: Life During a Flood.

The Second Crest

Holy Thursday

Seminarians go home to celebrate the Triduum (the three ‘Holy Days’ of Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil) in their parishes. CMS offices are closed Good Friday and Easter Monday.

Good Friday

Yesterday the Red River reached a ‘low water’ level of approximately 31½ feet. Melting snow and ice have started to make the Red River rise again. The National Weather Service forecasts that temperatures will remain above freezing, even during the night. They predict a 38 - 40 feet crest between April 16th and 18th, for which CMS is adequately prepared. There is a slight chance of rain on Easter Sunday. If it is a significant amount, the river level could rise quicker and higher than expected. Please continue to pray for God’s protection.

Easter Sunday

Celebration of the Lord’s victory over sin and death. Alleluia!

The Red River is rising far less than the predicted rate.

Wednesday, April 15th

Today’s revised forecast of the level for the Red River by the National Weather Service indicates that the worst is behind us. At one time they forecast that the second crest could be as high as 40 feet. The latest projection shows that the the river will crest on Saturday afternoon at about 35½ feet, 8½ feet below the top of our dike.

Friday, April 17th

The weather was beautiful all week: sunny, in the 60s and not too much wind. The snow is gone, things are drying out and our crisis is over. Today‘s forecast from the National Weather Service shows that the Red River crested yesterday at 34 feet. They do not think that the run-off from the south or the light rain over the weekend will make the river rise significantly.

Divine Mercy Sunday

Please join us in especially thanking the Lord for His compassion. His goodness was present in so many ways, especially in the hearts of good people both near and far. Deo gratias!

The two crests of the 2009 flood

Tuesday, April 28th

During the night, the river level dipped below 29 feet. The City of Fargo came by today to remove the plug from the sluice gate. Runoff can now drain normally into the river. The pumps are put away and the sandbags in front of the garage removed.

Over the last week, the earthen dike which protected Edgewood Golf Course (our neighbors to the north) was hauled off.

It has been one month since the Red River reached a historic high level. Things are getting back to normal.

One Last Record

Wednesday, May 20th

The level of the Red River slipped below 18 feet today, the level which the National Weather Service designates as “flood stage” for the Red River in Fargo. The flood of 2009 is officially over. For 61 days the Red was at flood stage, — the longest period on record that the Red has been at flood stage in Fargo.

Source of Additional Information

City of Fargo Flood Information

Current level of the Red River from the National Weather Service.
All the river levels given on this page were retrieved from this site on the dates indicated.