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Timeline of 1997 flood in Grand Forks

Click to play video 'RAW: Grand Forks gutted by flood and fire' RAW: Grand Forks gutted by flood and fire
RAW: Twenty years ago, the city of Grand Forks, N.D., was gutted by a flood and fire.

Twenty years ago, Manitobans watched in horror as a devastating flood swallowed up most of Grand Forks, N.D.

On April 18, 1997, the city’s dike system began to succumb to the rising Red River. Over the next few days, nearly four feet of water covered 75 per cent of Grand Forks.

RELATED: Looking back at the Winnipeg blizzard that led to the Flood of the Century

More than 40,000 people were forced from their homes and damage estimates were in the billions of dollars. Nearly 1,500 homes in the area were destroyed and neighbourhoods ruined.

Not only were the streets flooded, but a fire also broke out in downtown Grand Forks as the water continued to rise.

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Global News will be live tweeting each moment of the flood, using archived videos and pictures.

The effect of the 1997 flood


Source: Brian Peterson, Copyright 1997, Star Tribune

The dike surrounding the Lincoln Drive neighbourhood gave way on April 18, 1997, flooding the homes up to the rooftops. Today the neighbourhood is a park with all homes either demolished or removed.


Source: Brian Peterson, Copyright 1997, Star Tribune
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The Sorlie bridge, between Grand Forks and Eeast Grand Forks in 2017. The flood marker in Grand Forks shows the 1997 high water mark at the top.

Timeline of 1997 Grand Forks flood

  • April 18, 2:45 a.m: Red River at 51.42 ft.
  • April 18, 4:15 a.m: Boils appear in the dike protecting the Lincoln Park area. City orders evacuation of around 600 homes, including 106 residents of a retirement home near the Red River in East Grand Forks.
  • April 18, 6 a.m: City orders evacuation of Riverside Park and Central Park area.
  • April 18, 8 a.m. Water runs out of north end of Lincoln Park Golf Course and down Lincoln Drive.
  • April 18, 11:15 a.m: “It’s one of the major disasters of our time,“ Grand Forks Mayor Pat Owens tells reporters.
  • April 18, 11:35 a.m: National Weather Services revises its crest projection to 53 ft.
  • April 18, 12 p.m: Red River at 52.19 ft.
  • Apr 18, 12:15 p.m: First break in East Grand Forks dikes comes near Folson Park. But ring dike temporarily saves area.
  • Apr 18, 3:30 p.m: Dike south of Murray Bridge in East Grand Forks breaks, resulting in flooding of entire Point area (the area south of the Red River).
  • April 18, 4 p.m: Sirens sound as Point area ordered evacuated, and Murray Bridge closes.
  • April 18, 4:30 p.m: Water in Lincoln Drive area reaches same level as river, leaving about 300 homes in water, many of them to the rooftops.
  • April 18, 7:14 p.m: River reaches 52.62 ft., up 18 inches in 18 hours.
  • April 18, 8:08 p.m: National Weather Services revises crest for 54 ft.
  • April 18, 8:20 p.m: Central Park area fills rapidly.
  • April 18, 9:40 p.m: Emergency Operations Center at Grand Forks police station moves to University of North Dakota as storm sewer backup runs down Fifth Street. Within 30 minutes, the police station basement is full of water.
  • April 18: 10 p.m: River reaches 52.76 ft.; mayor bans sale of alcohol in Grand Forks.
  • April 18: 11 p.m: East Grand Forks dike near Kennedy Bridge fails, cutting the last link between the two cities and flooding Sherlock Park homes.
  • April 19, 12 a.m: Water flows off dike by Murray Bridge, flooding land inside Griggs Park in East Grand Forks.
  • April 19, 1 a.m: Water comes over the dike by Valley Golf Course in East Grand Forks.
  • April 19, 7:10 a.m: Water tops the dike in Riverside Park.
  • April 19, 7:50 a.m: National Guard begins diking East Grand Forks Police Department.
  • April 19, 8 a.m: Grand Forks water plant fails.
  • April 19, 10 a.m: City orders evacuation of all areas in Grand Forks east of Washington Street.
  • April 19, 11 a.m: University of North Dakota president calls off classes for the semester, two weeks before final exams are to start.
  • April 19, 12 p.m: Approximately 50 per cent of Grand Forks and virtually all of East Grand Forks are flooded.
  • April 20, 5:30 a.m: A large fire started in Grand Forks, engulfing eleven buildings and sixty apartment units before being extinguished.
  • April 20, 7 a.m: Red River at 53.7 ft.
  • April 20, 10 a.m: Grand Forks water supply exhausted.
  • April 20, 11:30 a.m: Mayor announces 24-hour curfew in mandatory evacuation zones.
  • April 20, 2 p.m: A helicopter dumps water on the smouldering downtown fire.
  • April 20, 7 p.m: United Hospital evacuates the last of its patients.
  • April 20, 8 p.m: 75 per cent of Grand Forks’ residents are evacuated.
  • April 20, 9 p.m: Red River at 53.99 ft.

Source: University of North Dakota

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The surreal sight of a flooded downtown Grand Forks engulfed in flames was a grim warning to Manitoba of the destructive power the river could soon unleash on Manitobans.

Over the next few weeks Global News will release more archival videos, pictures and stories of the flood that transformed the future of our city and province.