GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- A massive flood here has forced tens of thousands of residents to evacuate their homes and businesses, increasing food sales in the surrounding small towns that have absorbed the refugees.
Paul Nelson, president of Hartz Foods, a wholesaler based in Thief River Falls, Minn., said his customers -- 324 small groceries -- have seen a dramatic surge in sales.
"People usually go to these small-town groceries for their pick-me-up needs," Nelson said. "Now, they're shopping the entire store. The impact is significant."
Nelson said deliveries are being slowed down because his trucks can only cross the flooded Red River at two points: Fargo, N.D., and Emerson, Manitoba, near the U.S.-Canadian border.
As the river rises in Canada, Nelson's deliveries will most likely have to veer another 22 miles north, to Morris, Canada, to cross the river.
"We're having no vendor problems at all," Nelson said. "The only problem is the extra mileage. Deliveries are late, but we're getting everybody."
The Red River, which has threatened parts of North Dakota and Minnesota for the better part of this month, stood at 54 feet last week, about twice its 28-foot flood stage and a 100-year high.
About 90% of the city, which measures just 10.5 square miles, is under water. Floodwaters have knocked out power and the supply of fresh drinking water. The National Guard was called in to force evacuations.
Leevers Supermarkets, based 90 miles away in Devils Lake, N.D., has a 35,000-square-foot store in the flooded area. Dale Brown, personnel director, said employees piled sandbags around the store's entranceways last Saturday, but were then evacuated by the National Guard.
According to Brown, the store manager attempted to get close to the building in a National Guard Humvee, but the vehicle could not get within four blocks of the store because the streets were flooded with 4 feet of water.
Company officials do not know how extensive the damage is, but they do not expect to reopen for at least three to four weeks after the flood subsides.
"We're hoping there's no water in the facility, but we just don't know," Brown said. "That store was far removed from the floodplain. We've had flooding in past years, but nothing like this."
Miners, Hermantown, Minn., operates a 45,000-square-foot Super One Foods store in Grand Forks. The store was evacuated last Friday and no one has been allowed back to assess its condition, said Boyd Hanson, director of human resources.
"We really don't have all the details," Hanson said. "It is our intention to get back in business as quickly as possible."