Nearly 12,000 expect their homes to be swamped within days
MINOT, N.D. — Driving away with what they could fit in their vehicles, thousands of Minot residents left their homes on Wednesday amid blaring sirens and floodwater that overtopped or seeped through some levees.
Steve and Michelle Benjamin were among the nearly 12,000 ordered out. Before they fled, however, they hauled an entertainment center, desk chairs and bicycles over an emergency levee to a trailered pickup truck. It was the last of nearly a dozen loads.
Michelle Benjamin, 46, stood on the deck along the rising Souris River, watching water trickle over the dike.
"Oh my God," she said as she fought back tears. "It's not easy starting over at this age."
The river, which begins in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan and flows for a short distance though North Dakota, was all but certain to inundate thousands of homes and businesses during the next week.
The deluge was expected to far exceed a 1969 flood, possibly reaching 13.5 feet above flood stage by Monday. The river is expected to top the historical record set in 1881 by at least seven feet.
The Benjamins, who have lived in a landscaped five-bedroom modular home for 16 years, had moved their belongings out of the river's path twice in less than a month. Some 10,000 residents were evacuated earlier this month before the river hit 5 feet above flood stage. They were later allowed to return but were told to be ready to leave again quickly.
The two moves were particularly taxing on Steve Benjamin, 51, who broke his back in 1984 and has had several surgeries, evidenced by a 20-inch scar spanning much of his bare back. The last item waiting to be loaded — other than their dogs Buster and Bear — was a water bed.
Steve Benjamin said the couple was likely heading to his son's house, which was in Minot but on higher ground outside the evacuation zone.