Red River Rising: The Anatomy of a Flood and the Survival of an American City

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Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2003 - History - 265 pages
3 Reviews
On April 19, 1997, in one of the most dramatic floods in U.S. history, more than 50,000 people abandoned their homes and businesses in Grand Forks, North Dakota. A nation watched as the heart of downtown, engulfed by a river, burst into flames above the water line. Like Sebastian Junger?s The Perfect Storm, Red River Rising is a compelling true-life narrative about the confluence of natural forces and human error that shaped one of the greatest natural disasters in U.S. history. Ashley Shelby tells the dramatic stories of the flood: the suspenseful, blizzard-filled spring; the difficulties scientists had in predicting the river's crest; the struggles of people who fought the rising waters and of those who marshalled the city's forces. Despite technological advances in meteorology, despite the brute force of hundreds of earth movers, despite the utter determination of thousands who built and walked the levees, the river won. This book is a gripping story of the terrific cost of natural disasters and a fascinating portrait of how ordinary people rose to an extraordinary challenge. It is also a clear-eyed examination of the disastrous aftermath: the second-guessing and blame directed at the National Weather Service, at city and federal officials, and at the people of Grand Forks themselves as the city struggled to rebuild. With empathy and penetrating intelligence, Shelby uncovers the conflicts, conspiracy theories, and recriminations that tore at the community after the waters fell. Through the powerful stories of memorable individuals Red River Rising gives us a new perspective on disaster and community.

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Red River rising: the anatomy of a flood and the survival of an American city

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On April 19, 1997, Grand Forks, ND, was devastated by flooding on the Red River: more than 50,000 people were forced from their homes, and a significant portion of the city's downtown was damaged ... Read full review

Review: Red River Rising: The Anatomy of a Flood and the Survival of an American City

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This examination of the 1997 spring flood of the Red River has got a great ticking clock sense of urgency, a nuanced sense of the people involved in planning for and reacting to the disaster, and a ... Read full review

Selected pages


The Way Winter Ends
River Town
Red River Rising
Flood and Fire
Angels and Devils
The Value of Home
To Rebuild a City You Must Take It Apart
Flood Angst
Disaster Democracy
After the Flood
Selected Bibliography

The Mistake

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About the author (2003)

Ashley Shelby received a degree in journalism from Indiana University and a Masters of Fine Arts in nonfiction writing from Columbia University. Her work has been published in The Nation, Gastronomica, Post Road, The Sonora Review, and The Portland Review, as well as in the anthology Looking Back. Her fiction has been awarded the William Faulkner Short Fiction Award. Shelby grew up in Minneapolis and now lives in New York, where she works in publishing and is the co-curator of the KGB Bar Nonfiction Reading Series.

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