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N.D. city spared more damage as swollen river starts to recede

Danger remains; more than 4,000 homes flooded

The Souris River overflowed levees in Minot, N.D., on Friday. Forecasts called for the Souris to fall nearly 2 feet by Wednesday. The Souris River overflowed levees in Minot, N.D., on Friday. Forecasts called for the Souris to fall nearly 2 feet by Wednesday. (Scott Olson/ Getty Images)
By John Flesher
Associated Press / June 27, 2011

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MINOT, N.D. — The Souris River began a slow retreat from Minot yesterday with no further flood damage in the city, but officials warned that the danger would remain for several days until the highest water passed.

“We’re still at full alert until the water starts going down,’’ said Shannon Bauer, a spokeswoman for the Army Corps of Engineers. “It’s still a war.’’

The city’s levees were reinforced with plastic sheeting to help them withstand the sustained exposure to high water. Forecasts called for the Souris to fall nearly 2 feet by Wednesday.

More than 4,000 homes and hundreds of businesses flooded when the Souris flowed over levees Friday. Bauer said crews had only dealt with isolated problems since then, including a leaky dike that was reinforced Saturday night.

About a fourth of Minot’s 40,000 residents were evacuated early last week in anticipation of flooding. Smaller cities along the Souris also warned their residents to leave. The corps was sandbagging in Sawyer and Velva, two small downstream towns of just a few hundred people that face crests later this week.

Yesterday, National Guardsmen were monitoring a submerged pedestrian bridge in Minot to make sure it did not break off in the river channel.

The bridge has been trapping debris and could harm nearby levees. Commander David Sprynczynatyk said Guardsmen were ready to pull it out if it came loose.

Problems at Minot’s water-treatment plant prompted the state Department of Health to issue a boil order Saturday. The order also applies to Minot Air Force Base, about 13 miles north of town, which gets its drinking water from the municipal system.

Once the Souris recedes, Minot will begin tackling the job of rebuilding.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has approved Burleigh and Ward counties, which have some of the state’s most extensive flooding damage, for individual assistance aid. Governor Jack Dalrymple is pushing for the initiative to be expanded to 20 other counties and the Turtle Mountain Chippewa and Spirit Lake Sioux reservations.

FEMA and the federal Small Business Administration have loan and grant programs for some businesses and individuals, although officials caution they do not make up a disaster victim’s entire financial loss.

Another potential source of aid is the state Legislature, which is likely to consider flood-relief measures during a special session this fall, and the state-owned Bank of North Dakota, which already has a low-interest disaster-relief loan program to help businesses, farmers, and ranchers.

The state has a $386 million “rainy day’’ fund and $136 million in school aid reserves that could be used for disaster relief if lawmakers agree.

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