On June 22, 2011, sirens blared throughout the valley warning Minot residents to evacuate their homes.
On June 25, record-high floodwaters swept through the city and one of the many helping hands in the days leading up to, during, and after the water devastated the area was Minot’s Public Works Director.
Having worked for the city since 1968 – the 2011 flood was the biggest he’d ever seen – but not the first.
This week’s Someone You Should Know honors him and the thousands of people who will never forget the historic Mouse River Flood.
“That’s our goal. Save this city,” these were the words Alan Walter spoke from the podium in Minot’s City Council Chambers 10 years ago.
Like many did a decade ago, he fought the flood head-on.
“It had an impact on me, I can tell you that,” Walter said. “It took me about two years or more to get over what I had gone through for the months that we fought that water.”
With admirable commitment to the city of Minot, his efforts never wavered.
“Public works employees had been fighting water issues since the middle of March that year and ended in the middle of July,” he explained. “We had men working just about around the clock constantly.”
To compare, the flood of 1969 had 5,000 CFS (cubic feet per second) of water come through Minot.
It took 30 years to build flood control to protect the city from a flood like that.
In 2011, Walter recalls the water reports went from 11,000 to 30,000 CFS in just a matter of days.
But the emergency levees that had been built only protected up to about 11,000.
“We were doing everything we could to save the city and when we got the word that it was going to 15,000 CFS, I knew it was over for us,” he said.
Since March of 2011, Public Works was working to get runoff to drain – which was normal for that time of year – but what wasn’t normal was the focus on the valley to coordinate contractors to build up levees, man pumps to deal with stormwater, maintain infrastructure…all while the other two-thirds of the city still needed its day to day operations paid attention to.
“We had about exhausted all of our money and we’d exhausted all of our men.”
At the end of May, the department called in the Army Corps of Engineers but Public Works still had a lot of work to do.
“I’d get up at 4 o’clock in the morning getting ready to go to work and then at 5 o’clock I’d get out and tour the city where I could and see what was going on,” he remembered. “I’d come here to the water plant just about every day just to make sure everything was working good and then go to emergency operations center at about 6:30-7 o’clock.”
Walter was able to split the long days with his then assistant, and now current, director Dan Jonasson.
“I don’t think the city could have had a better incident commander than they did with Alan,” Jonasson said. “With all of his years of experience, his knowledge of all the infrastructure, and everything in the city…but most of all his dedication.”
He wholeheartedly fought the flood. Even when it brought about some frustrations.
One thing many people remember – Alan’s infamous words…”Boil the damn water.”
He recalled, “I said, I have got my employees working this water, I’ve got citizens working in this water. I’ve got the National Guard working this water, I’ve got the U.S. Air Force people working this water, the U.S. Marshal Service working in this water, the police department, the sheriff’s department, everybody that’s involved in trying to save this city and doing work for the city was working for this water…and we have to boil the damn water! I said, it don’t make any sense.”
His statements that day came from such a desire to save the city.
Jonasson said, “You won’t find a person more dedicated to the city of Minot than Alan is. It didn’t matter what it was…he always put 110% forward.”
Alan Walter is Someone You Should Know.
Walter says aside from the quickly accelerating water reports, what sticks out in his mind the most is the help from the Army Corps and so many other agencies that came together during such hard times.
And his service didn’t stop when he retired back in 2012. He currently sits as a Ward County Commissioner.