Water worries: Flood forecast is better, but residents face anxietyJamestown resident Pearl Silzly is already anxious about an upcoming flood, even though the snow hasn’t melted yet. Silzly faced flood issues last year when the water seeped into her basement, forcing her to sweep the stream into drains and pumps — a job that took two or three hours at a time, multiple times a day.
Jamestown resident Pearl Silzly is already anxious about an upcoming flood, even though the snow hasn’t melted yet.
Silzly faced flood issues last year when the water seeped into her basement, forcing her to sweep the stream into drains and pumps — a job that took two or three hours at a time, multiple times a day.
This year, officials are predicting the possibility of flooding, although not as severe of flooding as last year. The Army Corps of Engineers expects to release a combined 1,800 cubic feet per second from the Jamestown and Pipestem dams. At its peak last year, the dams released a combined 3,200 cfs.
And with flooding comes stress and anxiety for many residents who fear going through the same issues and inconveniences as last year.
For Silzly, waking up in the middle of the night wore on her, and when she tried to go out, socialize with friends and forget about it, all she could think about was returning home. She hasn’t had any water issues so far this season, but she’s worried that she might.
“I dread it. I’m not looking forward to going through that again,” she said.
That attitude isn’t uncommon in the community, said Russ Sunderland, assistant director at the South Central Human Service Center. The Human Service Center doesn’t record how many people seek assistance for specific forms of anxiety like anxiety related to flood issues, but Sunderland said he sees the stress about town.
“Is it out there in the community? You bet it is,” Sunderland said.
Internally, Human Service Center staff express anxiety, he said. The center relocated last year because of water issues near its location. Employees question if it will need to relocate again, he said.
Stress and anxiety are typical in a natural disaster, according to the American Red Cross. Especially this year, said Beth Dewald, executive director of the ARC’s Buffalo Valley chapter, when some residents are still recovering from the flood of last year.
“Some people are more prepared. Some people haven’t been able to fix last year’s issues,” Dewald said.
Some residents built permanent dikes around their homes, installed drain tile or purchased flood insurance, she said. Taking those precautionary measures are some of the good that come from dealing with flood issues two years in a row, she said.
But despite planning and preparing, residents still may suffer from stress. To cope, Dr. Katherine O’Neill, clinical psychologist for the North Dakota Psychological Association and member of the Disaster Response Network, offers some advice.
Cope actively instead of negatively, she said. Confront the situation directly and express thoughts and feelings. Negative coping includes avoidance or assigning blame. Avoiding the situation interferes with problem solving, she said, and may make the situation worse. Coping mechanisms like excessive use of alcohol or drugs interfere with thinking and sleep quality. Numbing emotions only interferes with the natural and necessary process of integrating traumatic events into one’s life story, she said.
Instead, focus on the positive and how you’ve grown since the last flood, O’Neill said. Have confidence you can cope with challenging situations and put the situation into perspective. Take care of yourself by exercising, eating well and taking time to relax.
For Silzly, some peace of mind comes from the measures she’s taken to prevent future damage. Already, the furniture is out of her basement and she’s already placed her pumps and plugged her sewer drain.
But even with the preparedness, Silzly said she still fears for flooding.
“I probably won’t be prepared emotionally but at least I kind of know what to expect,” she said.
Sun reporter Katie Ryan can be reached at 701-952-8454
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