The Mouse River was here first.
This is one of those times it's helpful to state the obvious.
In fact, when the previous record flood hit Minot in 1881, there wasn't much of a Minot to flood. The city didn't really get started until five years later when, in a five month period, a tent town of 5,000 sprung up.
The river itself came on the scene some 10,000 years ago, formed by melting glacial runoff. After the ice melted and huge lakes drained away leaving behind rivers like the Mouse, prairie grasses took hold, and native peoples began moving into the area.
About ten millennia later, railroad construction pushed across the prairie and stopped work for the winter in the fall of 1886, where that tent town or "Magic City" was quickly put up.
To again state the obvious, we no longer live in tents; we can't just fold them up and steal away before the water rises. Moving now is a very big deal. Cleanup will also be a huge undertaking, and then there is rebuilding.
Looking at the obvious, at the big picture, can help us make some sense of this disaster: the river has been flooding since the end of the last ice age; the city of Minot has been here about a century and a quarter.
But we are creatures of habit and routine, readily accustomed to the way things are in our everyday life right now. It's hard for us to adopt a broader, longer term perspective.
Our family is one example of this usual narrow, short-term vision. We moved here in late 1976, after there had been some flooding earlier in the year. In buying a home, it was very obvious in what area a house was: in, near or out of the flood zone.
We chose way out of the flood area, up on North Hill. A few years later, however, we looked at a bigger, nicer house in Eastwood Park, smack dab in what had been listed as a prominent flood zone. But everybody including us had forgotten about flood zoning by then.
Someone else had a bid on the house but it appeared their financing wouldn't come through, so we made a provisional offer. And then they got the financing and the house.
We stayed put in our slightly too small house. We are still there, and our three children are now grown and gone out of state.
We came very close to moving into an area more vulnerable to flooding. If we had moved, we would have lived more comfortably for over 30 years, but then.
"But then" came for many people. It could have come for us. It could have come for many others who for one reason or another didn't buy that house in the valley.
Now many valley dwellers are temporarily living on South or North Hill. And we are all waiting for the water to subside so that cleanup and rebuilding can begin.
In thinking about rebuilding, I remember that summer of 1976, a few months before we moved to North Dakota. Traveling from Wisconsin to Yellowstone, we stopped in Rapid City, which was just getting over some spring flooding.
We learned about the greenway system, or floodway, that was built after the tremendous flash flood in 1972 that killed 238 people and destroyed many homes and businesses along Rapid Creek.
Federal disaster funds helped Rapid City buy out 1,500 homes and 150 businesses and replace them with a floodway five blocks wide and six miles long. I vaguely recall seeing this green expanse in the middle of the city.
The 1976 flooding that mainly covered this long green expanse was more an inconvenience than a disaster.
The floodway/greenway idea is something for Minot to consider when it comes to reconstruction.
Another thing to consider is how the system of dams buffered us from flash flooding such as caught Rapid City unawares in 1972.
One last consideration: Rapid City has been letting their guard down as of late. Buildings are creeping back into the floodway. Engineer Leonard Swanson, the driving force behind the floodway project, died in 2008 at age 85. He must be turning over in his grave.
(James Lein is a community columnist for The Minot Daily?News)