Date of Award

8-2016

Document Type

Capstone-Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Program Name

History

Capstone Instructor

Dr. Dawn Spring

Abstract

In 1997, the Red River of the North flooded Grand Forks, North Dakota leaving thousands homeless and nearly destroying the city. Unlike community reactions after major flooding there in 1950, public sentiment following the 1997 event vacillated between disbelief, disappointment, and even anger. Despite the millions of federal disaster dollars spent between 1950 and 1997 and the efforts of thousands of emergency management workers, many Grand Forks residents believed the federal government had failed to protect them. A historical analysis of period newspaper articles, private correspondence, disaster response, and related legislation determined that public sentiment evolved between the 1950 and 1997 floods. Moreover, prominent federal disaster legislation introduced after the midcentury flood and continuing throughout the Twentieth Century created both a moral hazard and a false sense of security within the populace. Increasingly generous federal disaster aid lulled Grand Forks residents into denial of geological and meteorological realities spurring greater development in flood plains and increasing reliance on government intervention. Federal, state and local flood control efforts after 1950 further reinforced this paradigm. Those actions, while well intentioned, may have only postponed greater devastation in Grand Forks and the surrounding area from a larger flood in the future.

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