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Neighborhood's last man standing prefers to stick around amid flooding

By Chris Welch, CNN
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Last man standing
  • Lloyd Paulson, 85, of Moorhead, Minnesota, refuses to sell his home to the city
  • The city wants to build a levee in his neighborhood
  • Volunteers staged a massive effort to rescue his home during last year's flooding

Moorhead, Minnesota (CNN) -- He's been there for 30 years, and 85-year-old Lloyd Paulson isn't moving anytime soon.

But on his stretch of Rivershore Drive in this city just east of Fargo, North Dakota, he's essentially the only one.

"I want to go feet-first out of here," Paulson said from his living room, which is now just feet from rising floodwaters. "I don't want to leave. I want to stay here because I enjoy it so much."

Last year, he and his family and friends saved his home from the record flooding that nearly ravaged the entire city -- but it took 30,000 sand bags.

Video: Fargo on high alert for flood

A farm boy since birth, Paulson said the sandbagging in 2009 saved his property from major damage, meaning another pleasant year of watching the wildlife in his backyard.

"I can see turkeys and squirrels and deer. They come up at night."

But when the retired sporting goods store manager looks down the street now, what he sees is a mix of houses on stilts ready to be moved and vacant houses awaiting demolition.

The neighbors in the 14 houses to his south and three to the north sold their homes to the city, accepting its offer to buy them out so that a more permanent levee can be built up in their place.

Paulson says he's surprised that so many people made the decision, since some had "beautiful homes."

The buyouts were voluntary, but since Paulson decided to stay, he must foot the bill for his portion of that new levee himself. He hasn't received a bill yet, but he says whatever the cost, it should be worth it because that mountain of dirt will mean his days of sandbagging are over.

I just want to enjoy my life, and I can do it here.
--85-year-old Lloyd Paulson

Since the city's new levee isn't up yet, earthen levees surrounding Paulson's home are protecting it from this year's flood.

"The cupboards are all stocked up, the freezer is all stocked up, so I can stay here for weeks without having to go out," Paulson said, laughing.

And those levees will protect him up to a 43-foot crest. The most recent forecast calls for a crest of 38 feet, so Paulson says he's "not worried at all" about staying in his home while the water is high.

His wife of 57 years died shortly after the flood of 2009. But even though he now lives there solo, Paulson said he doesn't feel lonely.

"Not at all. I have so many friends in town, and every day, I'm out doing something. The phone rings regularly," he said.

Are you there? Share photos, video of flood

When asked how he feels to be known as the last man standing in his neighborhood, the one who won't leave, Paulson said he "didn't do this for publicity."

"I just want to enjoy my life," he said, "and I can do it here."