MINOT, N.D. —Chased from their homes by rising floodwaters and bunking with friends, clergymen Mike Johnson and Mike Pancoast did what seems to come naturally to folks around here: They hopped into a car and headed for a nearby town to help others evacuate.
"There are people who need help and they need it now and we're able to do it, so let's go," Johnson said Saturday before hitting the road for the North Dakota town of Velva, about 20 miles downstream from Minot, where the Souris River was nearing its peak after swamping an estimated 4,000 homes. The National Weather Service predicted the river's crest later in the weekend would be 2 feet lower than earlier projected, welcome news in the battered community.
Johnson, associate pastor of Christ Lutheran Church, was uncertain about the fate of his own apartment building, although his belongings were safely in the hands of parishioners and friends in town. Fellow Lutherans from Stanley, an hour's drive west, took charge of his office equipment and files. "They just showed up on Tuesday and carted stuff off for us," he said.
Similar stories of people helping each other, often without being asked and demanding nothing in return, were a heartwarming counterpoint to the destruction from unprecedented flooding along the Souris valley in north-central North Dakota. Brought together by word of mouth, church and civic networks, social media and random encounters, those with housing and supplies to spare gave willingly to those without.
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So many opened their doors that while some 11,000 people were evacuated from neighborhoods nearest the river, only a few hundred used shelters at Minot State University and the City Auditorium.
"For the rest of the country, that is kind of mind boggling. But ... that's how we are in North Dakota," Sen. John Hoeven said.
A Facebook page called "Minot ND Flood Help" drew volunteer offers to haul furniture, care for pets, clean laundry and even give therapeutic massages — many from outside town.