Grand Forks family living in Paynesville

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 04/29/97.

They stayed in Grand Forks as long as possible, living with friends until the mandatory evacuation orders were issued.

Susan (Kotten) Richie, Grand Forks, brought her family Frances, David, and Leilani Richie and a friend Kathy Dittemore, to Paynesville, where they could be with friends. The five flood refugees are living in the Frances Hedlund home on Minnesota Street for the time being. Hedlund is recouperating from surgery in the Twin Cities. Susan's parents live across the street.

"We have encountered a little bit of everything this year," Frances Richie, Grand Forks, said. "First a hailstorm, then blizzards (110 inches total this winter) 500 power poles broke, and now flood waters."

Susan said they were without heat for 36 hours the first weekend in April.

The elder Richies live in an older home dating back to 1905. They received a telephone call on Saturday from a neighbor that the main floor of their home wasn't damaged in the flood. The water barely reached the front steps. However, they don't know the status of the basement. They live 50 feet from the flood zone on top of a small hill. The dike, which broke, was only two blocks from their home. "I feel fortunate our home is still standing," Frances said. Many of our neighbors, on the next block, don't have homes left."

Bill and Susan Richie were told to evacuate on Thursday when the Lincoln Park dike broke. They went to stay with friends. The elder Richies moved out at 5 p.m. to their daughter's apartment.

"We didn't want to leave until necessary," Frances said. "We sat listening to the flood news on the radio all evening. My sister called and suggested we leave for Mayville. I didn't want to go yet. At midnight, we heard they were evacuating the whole city."

Mrs. Richie called Bill and Susan and within 15 minutes they were at the apartment, as well. At 6 a.m. they left town and headed to Mayville first, then onto Paynesville. "We were not interested in moving to the air force base," Susan said. "There was a caravan of cars leaving town."

Susan said they kept the windows open at night to hear the water approaching. Bill was able to continue working, as flood waters did not affect his business. "I would look down the street and see moving trucks and trailers at our neighbor's homes. I called Bill at work and suggested maybe we should move some things," Susan added. They stored many things in his parent's garage. They are hoping everything is dry.

"People were too keyed up to sleep," she added. "The day we heard our house was gone, we were helping others sandbag."

Susan said the only things she grabbed when they left town were a few pictures and her bread machine.

Susan and Bill celebrated their sixth anniversary recently. They joked that they had less now than when they were married. "Bill never liked a cluttered house," she added.

The elder Richies, David and Frances, expect to be able to return home soon. Susan expects to be in Paynesville for a while since her home was washed away. Susan has found a job with a temporary service in St. Cloud.

Bill is living with friends in Grand Forks and going to work at Minn-Dak Growers where he is director of milling. The company has their own separate water source and power system.

As soon as he was allowed back into the city, Bill checked in on his sister Leilani's apartment and Kathy Dittemore's. Their pet parakeets and cockatoo survived the floods. Bill has been feeding them since he returned to Grand Forks. Kathy works at UND and hasn't received word on when she can return to work.

"The people here have been so good and generous," Susan said. "When we left our house, we prayed the Lord would take care of us. Everything has been so overwhelming. We plan to take life one day at a time for now. Water is the biggest holdout for people to return to their homes.

"We have had people offering us living room and dining room furniture. The Paynesville Community Service Center brought over groceries which was appreciated. We heard we'll be one of the last to return since our homes are gone," Susan added.

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