MOORHEAD, MINN. - Pearl Bjerke has learned a few things in her 93 years, and Thursday, as record amounts of flood water bore down on her city, she was not taking any chances.

Worried that there may be water restrictions if it floods, she wasn't sure if she would be able to do laundry and didn't want to risk running out of clean clothes. She already had moved out of Eventide Senior Living Community, but she had come back to pick up more clothes.

"I never dreamed we'd have to move out of here," she said, shaking her head.

She said she was told she could be gone for a week to 10 days and had moved in with her son and daughter-in-law.

She was one of hundreds of senior citizens who were forced to leave the city's nursing homes and senior living facilities as a precaution as a potentially record-breaking flood headed for a Saturday crest.

Outside Eventide's main campus Thursday, family and friends of the seniors dashed back and forth to their cars, carrying laundry baskets, suitcases and walkers. A line of buses waited to transport residents.

Officials at Eventide, which serves 450 seniors at two sites in Moorhead, say they did not want to wait and risk the difficulty of having to transport people with medical needs after the water rose.

"It's the right thing to do," said Jon Riewer, president and CEO of Eventide Senior Living Communities. He and a special emergency planning team decided to evacuate the facilities early.

A similar exodus took place in several other Moorhead nursing homes and senior living facilities.

Park View Terrace Apartments, a senior apartment building with assisted living services, emptied its residence, sending tenants to live with relatives or to other sites.

The Evergreens, a nursing home in Fargo/Moorhead, has started moving its residents to Emmanuel Community, a sister site in Detroit Lakes.

Moorhead city leaders praised the moves.

"I give them a lot of credit for doing that," said Michael Redlinger, city manager. "We think it was a wise move and is something that's best when it happens earlier than later."

Depending on the level of care needed, the evacuees were either going to live with relatives or were headed to another nursing home. Those who need skilled care will be taken to senior centers offering the same level of care.

"Right now we've placed two-thirds of our skilled-care residents within 100 miles of Moorhead," Riewer said. "We kept them as nearby as we could."

The exodus is expected to wind down today.

Relatives of the seniors being moved seemed generally pleased with the pre-emptive move.

Linda Schwartzwalter, of Moorhead, said she felt relieved knowing that her mother would be safe should the dikes fail.

On Thursday, her 80-year-old mother, Guylene Allen, was placed on the bus to Bethany Homes in Alexandria.

Although her mother was not happy about having to pack up and move, she understands the need, Schwartzwalter said. She gave her mom a "puppy love" book to enjoy reading on the bus and when she is in her temporary new digs.

Moving hundreds of people at once is no small job, she said.

"It's a daunting task and the fact that they decided to do it took a lot of courage," she said.

Lillian Fallett, 95, didn't know when she would be moved or where she would end up, but she didn't seem to mind.

"I'd rather do that than be dragged out of the water pit," she said of the evacuation plan.

Allie Shah • 612-673-4488