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ND Officials Consider Blowing Up MO River Ice Jam

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  • ND Officials Consider Blowing Up MO River Ice Jam

    Wow, I did not know things were this bad. :(

    Published: March 25, 2009 07:46 am
    ND officials consider blowing up Mo River ice jam

    BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — National Guard members are planning to fly over the Missouri River to assess flooding conditions and the possibility of using dynamite to break up an ice jam and ease flooding around Bismarck.

    Lt. Dan Murphy, a Guard spokesman, said pilots were discussing weather conditions Wednesday morning, to see when they could plan a flight.

    Record amounts of water have been feeding into the Missouri River from swollen tributaries on top of a blizzard. Residents in low-lying subdivisions along the river in Bismarck and Mandan were ordered to leave their homes Tuesday after access roads flooded. Officials put out an urgent call for Wednesday morning for volunteers to help with sandbagging.

    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. North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven said the state is grateful for the help.

    "We think putting explosives on the ice jam is the best option," 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."

    Officials also were considering using salt to open up a river channel. Bismarck Mayor John Warford said the city has 1,800 pounds of salt available.

    Officials did not immediately have an estimate on the number of people forced to evacuate along the river. Among them were 146 inmates from the Missouri River Correctional Center, a minimum-security prison along the Missouri River.

    Deputy warden Patrick Branson said the prisoners were taken to the main state penitentiary. He said the river was close enough to the correctional center buildings that officials "felt we had to get all those guys out of there."

    Evan and Tove Mandigo left their Fox Island home in the middle of the night, after being notified of the rising water.

    "We went to the window and looked out and the river was in our back yard," Tove Mandigo said Tuesday morning, a few hours after she and her husband and their two English setters left their home for the safety of dry ground.

    "We didn't have enough time to make any real decisions on what we were going to take. We took medicines, clothes, shoes, and we left," she said.

    Another couple, Jane and Michael Pole, decided not to wait.

    "We just grabbed a bag, threw some stuff in and left," Jane Pole said.

    The Army Corps of Engineers 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.

    The move 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 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 with the blizzard conditions.

    The Bismarck area got 8 inches of snow since Monday night, with winds gusting to more than 45 mph Tuesday, the National Weather Service said. Light snow continued Wednesday morning.

    Colder temperatures could slow the runoff, National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Abeling said in Bismarck.

    "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," Abeling said. "Of course, there's ice already in the Missouri River channel on the edges. The middle was open, but there was a lot of ice on the sides.

    "You get that area south of Bismarck, there's a lot of curves in the river channel that cause that ice to plug up a little bit," Abeling said.

    "There's no way to forecast an ice jam, because it could break up," he said. "You don't know where it's going to form, when it's going to form, how long it's going to last."

    Sen. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., who also was briefed on the situation, said the weather was the wild card.

    "It's a blizzard so on top of all of that, you can't get up to assess the situation with an ice expert," he said. "You can't get up the air and look at these blockages."

  • #2
    Outside Fargo, A Flood Fight Without the Spotlight

    Mar 26, 5:27 AM EDT
    Outside Fargo, a flood fight without the spotlight
    Associated Press Writer

    OXBOW, N.D. (AP) -- Adrenaline and two hours of sleep got Mike Wieser through the night. But as he gasped for air and looked wearily at his country home slowly being absorbed by a lake of flood water, the new father looked like he would soon be running on empty.

    Water was seeping through his homemade dike, he was counting on three pumps to continue spitting out more water than was coming in, and the only other man there to keep it all afloat on Wednesday was his father-in-law.

    "It's closing in," he said.

    Others are in the same boat. While Fargo and Bismarck get most of the attention as floodwaters approach, people in the countryside are quietly, and wearily, fighting a flood that has already arrived.

    "They don't believe Fargo is going to give them any help," 20-year rural mail carrier Rhonda Wyum said about rural residents while snow swirled around her SUV on an icy intersection about 15 miles south of Fargo.

    She was unable to deliver mail to some residents because of flooded roads and said conditions were worse than in 1997, when a historic flood ravaged the area.

    "If you listen to the news, it's all Fargo. A lot of these little townships around here are struggling, and people don't know it."

    Cass County Sheriff Paul D. Laney said 46 people had been rescued or evacuated from 15 homes in Oxbow and a six-mile corridor to the north. Laney expected more evacuations Thursday.

    Reaction to the rural-urban dichotomy from country folks illuminates the lifestyle of self-reliance in this sparse, harsh swath of the northern Plains.

    In interviews with residents, no one complained. Even as they fought off flood waters and at the same time a snowstorm raged.

    Wyum said most rural residents don't begrudge the attention Fargo is getting, understanding that the city "has the fight of its life on its hands."

    The mood out here is oddly calm.

    As 72-year-old Don Tessier stood alone near the country home where he has lived for 51 years, he shrugged off suggestions his house was in danger. The tidy structure was nearly encircled by water, standing atop a mound Tessier built upon after a flood 40 years ago.

    He was more interested in showing off a shin-high chalk mark on a piece of angle-iron in his shed that recorded the water level in 1997.

    "It's still got a ways to go," he said in a chipper tone. Tessier stood on dry ground, but water seeping into a nearby corner of the shed formed a small pool.

    Like Wieser, Tessier spoke gratefully of the help he had already received from volunteers when asked about the attention paid to Fargo. Five people from Minneapolis who work for the same company as his neighbor, but were strangers to Tessier, helped him build a dike in recent days.

    Emergency officials keeping an eye on areas outside Fargo maintained there hasn't been a lack of volunteers, or emergency help.

    There was evidence of that on Wednesday in the hamlet of Oxbow, about 10 miles south of Fargo. Emergency teams from the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service swooped into the area with airboats to evacuate a handful of homes surrounded by Red River flood water.

    Fifteen-year-old Destiny Dolan and her friend, Kayla Weston, sat shivering in the front of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife boat seconds after they were picked up by emergency responders.

    "It was terrifying," Dolan said of being in the home as flood waters encircled it. She lives in Fargo but had been at Weston's home near the river helping build dikes. "I felt very trapped."

    Water didn't come into the home but was high enough they couldn't leave.

    Just a few blocks down the street, Cass County Sheriff's Deputy Steve Hahn explained that arrangements for the boats to come if needed were made weeks ago when officials predicted possible flooding problems.

    But no amount of planning may be able to help residents of more remote areas that can be difficult or impossible to reach because of closed roads.

    Cass County Emergency Management Director Dave Rogness was hoping residents could hold it all together using the toughness they've displayed during previous floods.

    But everyone has a breaking point.

    "When you look at people's resiliency levels and independence in rural areas - it's at a high level," Rogness said. "But this may push their limits."