By Norm Richards
It's early February 2011. Perhaps self preservation comes first but Fargo, North Dakota has begun creating sandbags against possible flood. This action will create a funnel to move water faster up the Red River toward Winnipeg where a half million people live. Although in 1997, the city did not flood, the city was on alert. As a caution I moved my mom north to our hometown of The Pas. She lived in a seniors home in south east Winnipeg. It turned out, it wasn't far from where flood struck.
Then, I was a member of the television production team to cover the flood threat. We knew before anyone else where and when flood was impacting life in the south region.
I remember, though we got the stories on screen quick, residents constantly phoned the studio seeking inside track news. I learned, I was responsible to remain calm and give people assurance not to panic. At the same time, we constantly kept in touch with stories coming in that reflected a change in the threat. Since I had experience as a writer / producer, I volunteered to produce stories for the emergency broadcast. I was otherwise at home developing a movie script on my own time and in charge of my life as I knew it at the time. I could dedicate time to help my community.
Calls to get involved and help in any way grew. There were calls for people to go sandbagging. I knew helping a television broadcast on the threat would be more effective for me. A meeting was called for experienced people and even those just interested in being a part of it. The community cable channels combined efforts overnight and teamed up together to create a cablecast team second to none. Experienced people were quickly adopted as leads on the production. I became a producer and found myself thrown into action. Although fun and challenging at the same time, I could not help but think I was on the front line for a whole city.
Those phone calls reminded me, if it had rained for two days or more as the river’s crest approached, Winnipeg would have suffered substantial flooding. I knew that but could not have shared that openly at the time. We learned our story telling was number one around the world in TV ratings for a brief number of days. That felt good.