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1997 Flood Profile: Leslee Smart

Leslee Smart sorts through a stack of photographs from the 1997 flood that her nephew, Michael Rahn, made during his work with the National Guard in Grand Forks. Smart still lives near Bringewatt Park where she was in 1997. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS -- After experiencing major floods in 1966 and 1979, Leslee Smart did not think the 1997 flood would cause nearly as many problems as it did.

"I never expected a flood that big," she said.

For days, Smart hauled belongings out of the basement and onto the main floor. Then, they were told to evacuate.

As they were leaving, Smart rushed to United Hospital, now Altru in Grand Forks, where she said she was told she had 20 minutes before a dike being built around the facility would be closed up.

When she walked in, her aunt was casually drinking coffee and reading the newspaper unaware of the evacuation. After Smart told her, the pair grabbed as much as they could before heading to safety in Devils Lake.

On the way to Devils Lake, the women stopped at a gas station just outside town. As they looked east, they could see smoke coming from downtown as fire engulfed the Security Building.

Smart's aunt eventually was taken to Washington state, and lived with a friend for two months. She said she had to leave the area because she couldn't handle watching the town she lived in destroyed.

"It was so hard for her," Smart said.

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