July 14, 1997 12:00 PM

OUT WITH THE KC-135 STRATO-tankers, in with the silk ficus trees. That was the order of the day at Grand Forks (N.Dak.) Air Force Base, where a cavernous airplane hangar was transformed by fresh roses, an archway of hyacinths and the high-decibel stylings of the platinum rock band Soul Asylum. “It was awesome,” sighs Aleece Whitcomb, 17, a Red River High School senior. “Unforgettable.”

It was, in short, the prom that could. When the catastrophic Red River flood inundated Grand Forks last April, the casualties included the junior and senior proms—until a local rescue committee got rolling. Soon San Francisco prom-dress designer and former teacher Jessica McClintock donated 350 prom dresses: a Formal wear company lent 250 tuxes. The Air Force offered the use of its hangar, which officers’ wives helped decorate. Soul Asylum, from neighboring Minnesota, agreed to play for free—the first prom in its 16-Year career. “We couldn’t sandbag for them.” says bassist Karl Mueller. “But we wanted to do something— music relief,”

For the 1,200 students, the prom was the best retort yet to a season of devastation. And the simple sight of so many familiar faces was a treat in itself. “We’ve all been separated.” says Red River senior Marla Moore, 17, of the flood-shortened school year. “It’s wonderful to see everyone together again.”

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