Story of the Story
By By Tech. Sgt. Brett Ewald, Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs
/ Published April 18, 2011
GEORGETOWN, Minn. -- Georgetown, Minnesota's 'Hole of Hope' was an inspiration during another year of rising floodwaters in the Red River Valley. ABC's Barbara Pinto reported live early Wednesday for the Good Morning America show from within the 'Hole of Hope.' She describes her surroundings as a "crater that used to be a baseball field." In one arm she holds home plate. This, she says, is the only visible reminder that there was once a baseball field here.
She was first informed of Georgetown's unique flood fighting efforts while reporting on the Clark County Sheriff's Departments airboat patrols. Thereafter, the ABC crew focused on the effort to excavate the towns' baseball field for fill to be used to construct additional levees. Georgetown is ringed with a winding levee system aimed at keeping sporadic spring-time flood waters from inundating the town. A permanent levee system has been in place along parts of the town since the 1997 Red River flood. Additional temporary levees, of earth and sandbags, were constructed in both 2009 and 2010.
As in 2009 and 2010, the Minnesota National Guard was called to State Active Duty to support towns along the Red River Valley. Minnesota Soldiers supported Georgetown authorities once the improved earthen levee system was in place. This was accomplished by performing regular, around-the-clock patrols along levees to ensure there were no leaks and to monitor water levels. Furthermore, Soldiers checked and maintained water pumps in the town.
The third consecutive year of flooding caused more temporary levee systems to be put into place and for more height to be added to existing levees. As flood waters rose higher and quicker than projected even these proactive measures were not enough.
More soil was quickly needed to raise the existing levees. Georgetown's Mayor made the difficult decision to sacrifice the baseball field's soil to the flood in hopes of saving the town. Earth movers dug out soil from within the baseball field fence line and began adding it to the levees. This left a vast hole, the size of the baseball field, in the middle of the town. The baseball field took on a new name, being called the 'Hole of Hope.
Local, regional and national news agencies began to converge upon the town as word spread of this dramatic effort to save Georgetown. This was the case when ABC decided to portray the 'Hole of Hope' during the Good Morning America show. Pinto, a veteran flood reporter, described the efforts as an "American story of ingenuity."
Andy Fies, on-scene ABC Producer, commented that the reason for covering the 'Hole of Hope' was that it was a "compelling way to tell the story" of this year's flooding. Fies, also a veteran of Red River Valley flood coverage, sees the re-use of the baseball field in this manner in the Heartland of America as historic. Although the people have temporarily traded the baseball field for the safety of the town, the field will return after the flood waters recede.
Both ABC professionals spoke of the great efforts of the people of Georgetown. They commented that the citizens' willingness to help each other wherever and whenever they can and the level of hospitality shown was unprecedented.