On the evening of June 19, 2000 and early morning of June 20, three super cells, totaling seven inches of rain fell within six hours. The city of Fargo’s storm drains were built to withstand a “100-year event” of 5.5 inches, thus the overwhelmed drains could not stand the flash flood. Power was knocked out, Interstate 29 was closed, the Fargodome took on eight feet of water, and 50% of roads were flooded, as were most basements. Mayor Bruce Furness declared a state of emergency by 3am on June 20th.
Around 1am on the 20th, NDSU library and archives staff members arrived at the library to find two feet of water in the basement. The lower basement level contained periodicals and journals, and the NDSU Archives and the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection in the upper lower level. As the flooding increased, the basement library windows could no longer handle the weight of the water. The two windows closest to the east side burst and two more feet of water rushed in. Staff members worked until 9am to try to save the materials in the basement, when they had to leave due to safety risks. Over the next week hundreds of volunteers helped to remove journals and periodicals from the basement and clean up the damage.
While about 99% of the Archives collections were saved, about 10,000 volumes of journals and periodicals were lost to the flood water. These volumes were worth about $10 million and accounted for two-thirds of the periodical collection. Nothing that had been under flood water could be saved due to sewer contamination. Flood waters entered the basements of almost every building on campus, and all phone lines and the internet service were down. The entire campus sustained $22 million in damage, $4 million of that from the library.
After everything was removed from the basement, the periodicals and journals were temporarily stored at the former Sunmart on 19th Ave., which is now CVS. Periodicals, journals, and books are no longer kept in the basement. The area has been converted to a large study area for students. The Germans from Russia Heritage Collection was moved to the first floor of the library and the NDSU Archives was relocated to the Skills, Training, and Technology Center on 19th Ave.