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Evacuating Elders in a Disaster

Posted May 14 2009 4:31pm

Some background:

We, in Fargo, North Dakota (where I live) and Moorhead, Minnesota – cities divided by the Red River of the North, are in a fight of our lives. We thought the worst flood threat was behind us.

In the spring of 1997, record snow melts and a disastrous ice storm in April brought on flooding throughout this flat river valley of rich farmland that was once the bottom of Lake Agazzi.

This spring, because of many factors, we are experiencing even higher flood levels. Amazing people from Alaska to Florida, Wisconsin and other areas have shown up to help fight the water. Hampered by more snow and record low temperatures now (which freezes sandbags and keeps the sand from forming tight bonds), these people are working night and day. The crest prediction keeps rising. The biggest problem will be keeping the dikes from breaking as the pressure from the high water sits for most of next week, slowly moving north. Yes, this river moves north.

The dikes get saturated and weak. The pressure is huge. A major break is always possible.

Now for elders and evacuation. In 1997, Ada, Minnesota and Wahpeton (ND)/Breckenridge(MN), which are also divided by the Red River, had ice jams which called for emergency evacuation from nursing homes. The TV footage still haunts me – frail, confused elders being taken out of nursing home windows and put in boats to get them to safety. In my book, a story is told by a daughter whose father was evacuated from an Ada nursing home. For hours, she didn’t know where he was. He never fully recovered, mentally.

We, in Fargo, are now evacuating our vulnerable people in case the worst happens and we go under, like Grand Forks, ND did in 1997. It could happen here. Evacuation (or even the thought of it) is emotionally and mentally hard on all of us. People are leaving their homes, not knowing what they will go back to. I haven’t had to do this – yet, but the stress is huge.

For you?  Think of your elders. What would you do? Whether they are in a nursing home, in an apartment or living with you, what would you pack? What would you do if, because of a hurricane, flood, tornado or fire, you were told you had to move them NOW. The power is cut off. Water must be shut off.

They are already confused. They are frightened. So are you, but you try not to show it. What medications must go with? Is there something small but comforting you could grab? No one wants to think of these things, but they are all too real. They happen.

I’m asking for prayers for our cities; for our elders and sick people who are now being evacuated by ambulances from several states and taken to hospitals in other areas, many miles from home; for people in nursing homes who have been moved to the highest floors, but may have to be take to strange places – without their families; for children who are frightened. I' m asking for prayers for incredible people who come from the safety of their own homes, who leave their jobs and families to come and help strangers.

Pray for us, if you will. I’ll keep you updated.
Carol

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