It's not too comforting to say this year's floods up in the Red River Valley aren't as bad as last year's; they're still almost 20 feet above flood stage. It's like telling someone "we're going to saw your other leg off, but this time below the knee."

At least this year's floods aren't as apocalyptic as others -- in the famous Grand Forks flood of 1997, downtown caught fire before it was extinguished by a giant meteor. Last year, Fargo had a blizzard in the middle of the flood. There are few places in the world where you can simultaneously die of drowning and exposure, but Fargo qualified. (Not something they mention in the tourist literature.)

If a T. rex rose from the Red River and started blasting Broadway with atomic breath, no one would be that surprised, but experts say sonar has detected no large underwater masses moving north on two legs, so this year might not be one for the books.

In the family scrapbook are photos of floods past: Grandpa's farm looks like the Pacific Ocean with phone poles; Dad's Texaco station on the end of town, surrounded by miles of water, looks like the entrance to a Bond villain's underwater lair. One year Texaco's ad campaign encouraged Jack Benny, famous miser, to get a full tank of gas -- which led to the sight, après le deluge, of Jack's eyes peeking over a vast flooded expanse, with the words FILL 'ER UP, JACK? over his head.

We have flooding in the Twin Cities too, as you may have heard. Or maybe not. In a small town, everyone sandbags; in a big town, a flood is something that happens to someone else. If we read STILLWATER BORNE AWAY IN CEASELESS TORRENT, ENDS UP IN IOWA, many people in the metro would think, well, I'm not going all the way to the Quad Cities to shop for antiques.

In a small town, a disaster that happens to you happens to your neighbors, and vice versa. Then again, every town is a small town when a disaster happens. Remember how Bloomington all came together during the T. rex attack of '88? • 612-673-7858 • More daily at