BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Officials issued an urgent call for volunteers to help with sandbagging Wednesday as record amounts of water poured into the Missouri River and evacuations were ordered in riverside areas.
National Guard members made plans to fly over the Missouri River to assess flooding conditions and the possibility of dropping explosives to break up one of the ice jams backing up water in the Bismarck area.
Although Fargo had been a focus of activity because of the rising Red River, Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., called Bismarck "the most urgent threat" in North Dakota because of the ice jams and new snowfall.
The call for volunteers Wednesday was made after residents of low-lying subdivisions in Bismarck and Mandan were told to leave their homes Tuesday as access roads flooded.
Officials did not immediately have an estimate on the number of people forced to evacuate. They included 146 inmates of the Missouri River Correctional Center, a minimum-security prison along the river.
Fox Island residents Jane and Michael Pole didn't need much prodding to evacuate. "We just grabbed a bag, threw some stuff in and left," Jane Pole said.
President Barack Obama declared North Dakota a federal disaster area, which means the federal government will pay 75 percent of state and local government costs for the flood fight.
A National Guard spokesman, Lt. Dan Murphy, said pilots were discussing weather conditions Wednesday morning to see when they could plan a flight to survey the ice jams in the Missouri River.
The National Weather Service said two ice jams were reported — one just south of Fox Island and one north of Bismarck. Officials said the threat intensified as a blizzard struck the area Tuesday.
"We think putting explosives on the ice jam is the best option," Gov. John Hoeven said at a news conference Tuesday. "We've identified a demolition team and we are arranging to fly them in to help with the placement of explosives."
The Army Corps of Engineers on Tuesday cut water releases for the first time ever from the Garrison Dam north of Bismarck to ease flooding. No water will be released from the upstream dam until the flooding eases in Bismarck, spokesman Paul Johnston said.
A reduction in the water releases takes about two days to reach the city, he said.
And it doesn't affect other sources of water.
"A lot of the ice has come from the tributaries. We've had record flooding along the Cannonball and the Knife Rivers, and that is contributing to a lot of flow into the Missouri. So even though you lower releases out of the dam, all the tributaries coming in are contributing to the water," National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Abeling said in Bismarck.
Cutting releases from Garrison will cut power generation at the dam and force the Western Area Power Administration to buy electricity on the open market to meet obligations to its customers, Johnston said.
The Bismarck area got 8 inches of snow from the blizzard, with wind gusting to more than 45 mph, the National Weather Service said Wednesday morning. Light snow continued falling Wednesday morning, with a temperature of 19 degrees, the weather service said.
The blizzard had blocked hundreds of miles of highways in Montana, Wyoming, South Dakota, North Dakota and Nebraska. The southwestern North Dakota town of Marmarth reported 22.5 inches of snow and up to 2.5 feet of snow fell in South Dakota's rugged Black Hills.
Most flood concern earlier had been focused on North Dakota's biggest city, Fargo, and its neighbor Moorhead, Minn., where the Red River's crest of 39 to 41 feet was projected for Friday evening. It was measured at 33.93 feet early Wednesday.
An emergency dike to protect downtown Fargo was being raised to 42 feet, but the expected crest would still threaten several neighborhoods and hundreds of homes in lower areas.
Hundreds of volunteers were at work piling sandbags in Fargo, with a goal of filling nearly 2 million. "We don't see any fear," Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said. "We just see people working very hard."
In Crookston, Minn., about 50 miles northeast of Fargo, ice jams caused flooding on the Red Lake River and city officials urged about 200 people to evacuate low-lying areas.
On the Net:
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.
|< Prev||Next >|