Blog – Disaster Preparedness, Water and Storm Damage

Frank Lloyd Wright home stays put in flood plain

The year 2009 was one of record-setting devastation for those near the Red River in North Dakota. Since then, the city of Fargo has purchased 50 properties in an attempt to protect the city from flooding without the need to use sandbags. However, homeowner John Stern will not budge.

Dream Home

Stern purchased his dream home over 25 years ago—a 1,800 square foot property along the Red River designed by architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Stern told the Associated Press in an interview that his home is like a tree house because of its placement among the trees and the unique architectural twists and turns that allow for fantastic river views. The city of Fargo is trying to purchase Stern’s home, along with 14 others.

In 1997, Stern unsuccessfully used 11 electric pumps in an attempt to keep floodwaters away from his home. Following the disaster, he built a clay dike. In 2009, Stern fortified his levee with sandbags. In addition to purchasing flood insurance, some of Stern’s neighbors invested thousands of dollars to raise the foundations of their homes to protect them from flood damage.

Flood Predictions and Fears

Pat Zavoral, a Fargo city official, states the National Weather service predicts there is a 70 percent chance that the river will crest this spring at a level higher than it did during the fall of 2010. The city’s buyout option is voluntary, and residents are warned that the city may lack funds if they dwell on the decision to sell their homes for too long. Fargo city officials state that homes on their buyout list are in danger of continual water damage from floods even if they divert the Red River, especially if they experience a “500-year flood event.” Residents on the buyout list feel pressured to sell and fear their homes will suffer a loss in value by being placed on the buyout list. Regardless, the city of Fargo will continue to help homeowners place sandbags around their properties to protect their riverside homes.

[photo: Adam Quartarolo]

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