North Dakota is all to familiar with what massive flooding can do as the state has had their fair share of flooding over the past 20 years. As the Red River Valley braces for what is expected to be another record-breaking flood in 10 years, the harsh winter experienced in the heartland has had devastating effects. The people of Langdon and Walhalla have joined forces to try and make the catastrophic flooding being experienced in other areas a little better.
by Melissa Anderson
Walhalla resident Aaron Zaharia and his wife, Joy, were talking as the first of the devastation was shared on social media by friends that lived near Fremont, Nebraska. What they saw had them going to their attic to see if there was anything they could give to those who had lost everything.
“It went from there to putting it on Facebook and asking people for help, and it just blew up,” Zaharia said .
The entire town of Fremont, with a population of over 25,000, has been hit very hard. Thousands of homes in the city limits have been lost. Agricutlure in the rural areas of Nebraska is facing the toughest challenge any way of life can. Flood waters, which began to rise on Friday, March 15, quickly washed away not only homes but entire livelihoods. Crops that had been stored awaiting better prices due to the trade war have been destroyed. The number of livestock lost continues to grow with barns full of hogs being drowned and herds of cattle stranded without food or clean water. Zaharia shared that a friend who raises cattle lost 150 calves to the flood.
While the flood waters are slowly receding, the standing water continues, and test results show it is contaminated with dangerous bacteria and chemicals. The total projected cost of damage in Nebraska alone will be over $1 billion. Other states including Iowa and South Dakota are facing similar situations of total loss. For many, there will be no insurance to help them restart their lives.
“They have lost everything so we want to go and give a hand to whoever we can,” Zaharia said. Initially, it was just going to be the area of Fremont, but as the damage from the bomb of a blizzard has increased and the melting of the snow brings floodwaters, other states are in need of help as well. Multiple trips may be in the future to help anyone and everyone they can.
“The initial trip was to go to Nebraska and help them out and now there are people in South Dakota looking for help, too, in the smaller communities that are not getting the help like the bigger communities,”Zaharia explained.
Zaharia’s two car garage has already been filled on one side with donations as well as his home for items that could not be cold-stored. There is a little bit of everything from a pallet of dog food and boxes of cat food donated by Tractor Supply of Grafton to items donated by local businesses and people. Lithia Ford in Grand Forks is also a drop spot and has collected two pickup box loads already with more expected.
“We’ve also received a total of $390 of which $100 has been earmarked to shop for supplies,” Zaharia said.
Zaharia came to Langdon on the morning of Thursday, March 21 with his pickup. Donations started arriving at 10 a.m. and by 10:30, Zaharias pickup box was filled to the brim with the inside full with only room for him to drive. The bed couldn’t hold anymore without tiedowns. After calling in reinforcements, another pickup was soon full as well. Two trips would be necessary to take donations from Langdon to Walhalla as Zaharia took the first load from Langdon homes and returned later that afternoon to pick up the additional donations.
“It’s been wonderful the amount of people and donations that we have gotten,” Zaharia said.
Items that are in high demand include:
– Shovels and rakes
– Cleaning supplies, trash bags, paper towels and buckets
– Food including cases of water
– Items for babies including but not limited to diapers, bottles, etc.
– Household items such as pots, pans, silverware, etc.
“We are still short on cleaning supplies and that stuff. As far as clothing- we have gotten a lot. Pet supplies would also be great,” Zaharia said.
Zaharia plans to make the trip with as much of the donations as he can take on March 28. Until then, he and others will be accepting donations. He can be reached via Facebook or by calling 701-721-8132. Another pick up in Langdon may be arranged which will be shared via social media.
“I didn’t expect it to blow up like this, but it just shows how much we care,” Zaharia said. “Hopefully I won’t need a semi by then.” With North Dakota nice and generosity on full display, he probably will.