Flooding expected all over again

Seemingly unending preparation continues in Upper Midwest as new flooding is predicted.

BY BOND BRUNGARD | BEULAH, ND | April 14, 2009

"We hope and pray we see the end of the high water. . . and then we can return to the recovery"

—Mary Lou Aune, Zion Lutheran Church

Spring is finally reaching North Dakota and Minnesota, and with the advent of the warmer weather comes more flood worries that have plagued these states for the last month.

Tributaries that feed the Red and Missouri Rivers are flowing full of water from a recent snow melt-off, and disaster preparedness officials are getting ready for the recovery that is likely to be needed.

After cresting at nearly 41 feet in Fargo North Dakota and Moorhead, its neighboring city in Minnesota a few weeks ago, the Red River is expected to crest again at 38-39 feet within the coming days.

“We are waiting for the second onslaught,” said Steve Carbno, the disaster preparedness coordinator for the Salvation Army in Fargo and Morehead.

Carbno has had mobile feeding units helping sandbaggers for the past month, and he said everyone is working overtime to save these cities as a storm system bears down and is scheduled to arrive with the cresting of the Red River later this week.

Carbno said 15-20 percent of the housing in both cities is endangered if the temporary dikes and sand-bagged hills can not hold the water back.

“It’s tough to see a sandbag dike in your backyard and a clay dike in your front yard,” he said.

Carbno said these preventive measures may save property and possessions, but the constant threat of looming disaster takes an emotional and spiritual toll on residents.

Teams head out into neighborhoods and try to offer a compassionate voice to residents tired of the weather and the calamitous aftermath. But during one such visit recently in a neighborhood north of Morehead, volunteers watched as a house burned to the ground because it was cut-off from the fire department.

“We couldn’t get a fire truck in,” he said, “so the house burned down.”

And it’s just not the kind of housing you’d expect to be endangered during floods like mobile homes and older structures. Carbno said all types have been at risk during the Red River’s rise in March and April.

A few hundred miles west, the Army Corps of Engineers are reducing releases from the Garrison Dam on the Missouri River nearly in half from 9,000 cubic feet per second to 5,000 cubic feet per second to prevent flooding down stream around Bismarck.

Releases from the dam were curtailed in late March because ice jams north and south of Bismarck were flooding the region.

The Knife River flows through Beulah, north of Bismarck, and into the Missouri River. The Rev. Mary Lou Aune, pastor of the Zion Lutheran Church, is now waiting for the water to again crest, so she can start to work on the follow-up.

“We hope and pray we see the end of the high water,” she said, “and then we can return to the recovery.”

Another muck-out phase is expected to follow, and Aune said donations will still be needed when the FEMA and other disaster preparedness funding is exhausted by those devastated by the flood waters this year.

Members of Nechama, a Jewish disaster response group based in Minneapolis and St. Paul, sent volunteers to Beulah and Linton, southeast of Bismarck, to help with the clean-up last month.

“We pressure washed, and we bleached (homes),” said Seth Gardner, the director of operations for Nechama and the president of Minnesota VOAD.

A few Nechama volunteers have remained in Beulah to help with the recovery from before and what could follow. But now Nechama personnel are returning to Fargo and Morehead and help others as they get ready for the Red River’s crest and the possible flooding that may occur later this week.

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