Souris river flooding forces thousands of Minot, North Dakota residents to evacuate

June 23, 2011

Following the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, the less-known Souris River has become the latest to see historic flooding. As Jason Samenow reported :

From the Mississippi River to the Missouri, river flooding has been relentless in 2011. Now, the Souris River, which curls from Canada through north central North Dakota back into Canada, is reaching levels never before witnessed. The National Weather Service says the local emergency operations center has reported levees beginning to be overtopped in parts of Minot.

In response, NWS issued a flash flood warning at 9:41 central time for Minot, urging residents to “move quickly” away from evacuation zones. Eleven thousand residents have been told to leave according to reports.

On Wunderground, meteorologist/blogger Jeff Masterssaid this is a “1-in-100 to 1-in-200 year flood”, describing the following the factors which are leading to the historic river levels.

“Massive rainfall in Canada on Sunday and Monday, combined with very heavy rainfall and snow melt over North Dakota over the past month, are responsible for the record flood. The Souris River Basin near the Rafferty Dam in Saskatchewan received four to seven inches of rain Sunday into Monday. Flood heights along the Souris River near the Canadian border upstream from Minot are already almost a foot above the previous all-time highest mark, and all that water will arrive in Minot”, Masters wrote.

Thousands of residents of Minot, North Dakota raced to prepare for the impending flooding Wednesday, sandbagging houses and critical buildings in the town. As AP explained:

Plastic sheeting hung over the apartment building like a shroud, stretching from the eaves to the ground. Across it, someone had spray-painted the word “pray” and drawn a line labeled “1969” — the level where floodwaters had risen the last time the Souris River climbed out of its banks in Minot.

That line stood just 2 feet above the ground. But the water is expected to climb far higher in parts of this Air Force town over the coming days as the little-known waterway swells from rain and snowmelt. It could bring the region’s worst flooding in four decades.

As many as 10,000 people raced to evacuate Wednesday as water began spilling over Minot’s levees. The river, which begins in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan and flows for a short distance though North Dakota, was all but certain to inundate thousands of homes and businesses during the next week.

A quarter of the city’s 41,000 residents had been facing a 6 p.m. evacuation order, but emergency sirens blared at 1 p.m., warning people that the deadline had been moved up by five full hours. Before making their escape, city crews sandbagged critical structures such as the water-treatment plant, city hall and school buildings.

“I feel so bad for everybody,” said Robyn Whitlow, who lives outside the evacuation zone but was helping people load their belongings. She burst into tears when the siren went off.

Offiials have estimated that as many as 10,000 residents may have been forced to evacuate Minot. As AP reported:

The city of Minot, N.D., hasn’t given up in its battle against flooding from the rising Souris River.

Crews are working furiously to raise earthen levees higher to protect some homes nearest the river. The scene Thursday morning was a rush of trucks and Bobcats dumping and packing clay and dirt on top of levees.

Some 10,000 people have evacuated their homes, about one-fourth of Minot’s population. Water began seeping over levees on Wednesday, and the water is expected to rise faster Thursday as more water is released from upstream dams.

Parts of the city are already flooding. One trailer park is under several feet of water.

The Souris isn’t expected to crest until Sunday or Monday, and Mayor Curt Zimbelman says the city faces a “very difficult” long-term situation.

More from The Washington Post

National: Missouri governor orders state of emergency over flooding

Politics: Cantor pulls out of White House debt talks

National: One of three Arizona wildfires expected to be contained by Wednesday

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