Friday, April 24, 2009

The Greenway Will NOT be Closed for a While

Good news, it looks like Mayor Brown has rescinded his order to keep the Greenway closed.

“Although the Greenway is now open to the public, many trails remain under water and high water exists in many areas. Users are cautioned to use discretion when near the high water.” --Kim Greendahl, Greenway Specialist for the City of Grand Forks.

I'm not sure what caused the sudden change of heart, but I'm definitely not complaining. This is great news for all Grand Forks residents, it's just unfortunate that we won't be seeing many temps higher than 40s or 50s for the next week.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Greenway Will be Closed for a While

According to this Herald article at least. What I took from it is that we won't see the Greenway completely open until the second half of summer, which is unfortunate since the summer lasts about 2 months here. This really is sad news because the Greenway was definitely the staple of my trips, and I'm sure many other residents feel the same way.

Time to start looking for some alternatives. There's always the Grand Forks Fitness Trail, it's not quite as long or scenic as the Greenway, but it's still pretty nice. There's also a bike path that runs way south of town that I've been through many times. If there are other alternatives that I'm missing (and I'm sure there are), please feel free to post a comment.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Final Flood Update

Unless there's a resurgence of biblical proportions, this will be my final post covering the flood of 2009, I would like to try to get back to riding next week when it warms up (crossing fingers).
I realize the flood fight isn't over by any means, but I will no longer be doing updates on it, unless there's important announcements or needs for volunteers. To all the people that came to my site during the flood from all over the country, I do hope you come back to see the regularly scheduled programming. I want to thank everyone that went sandbagging throughout our region, it's volunteers like you that really remind everyone why our state is considered one of the friendliest, and it helps restore my faith in humanity.

See you on the trails.

River Levels:

Fargo: 36.53 ft
Grand Forks: 46.88 ft

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

My New Bike

I finally bought a new bike in preparation for the summer:

Some might say that it's not very practical, but I think I'll get used to it, and it seems like everyone has mountain bikes these days so I'm just trying to break away from the norm. So if you see me on my new bike whenever everything thaws out, feel free to say hi! I might even let you ride it.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Finally, Some Good News

It appears the Red will be cresting at a slightly lower level than initially thought, which is good news for the entire region, but definitely does not mean that the fight is over. There is still plenty of snow to melt, and another storm system is projected to hit the area. Be cautiously optimistic.

Here are some amazing pictures from the past week, I encourage everyone to take a look:

Current River Levels:

Fargo: 40.82 feet
Grand Forks: 48.3 feet

Friday, March 27, 2009

"You cannot depend on a sandbag dike to save your life"

I came across an article on CNN's website containing an interview with Lt. Gen. Russel Honore who led the military response to disasters such as Hurricane Katrina. I recommend you all read it, it's a good reminder that just because you have sandbags set up, it doesn't mean that you're fully protected. And some may forget just how cold that flood water actually is. Being waist-high in freezing-cold water is extremely dangerous.

By Wayne Drash

(CNN) -- Residents in the flood plains of North Dakota need to flee to high ground because "you cannot depend on a sandbag dike to save your life," said Lt. Gen. Russel Honore.

Lt. Gen. Russel Honore gained fame for the way he worked in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Lt. Gen. Russel Honore gained fame for the way he worked in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Honore, who led the military response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2007, said his biggest concern is the frigid temperatures of the water in North Dakota and the potential of people freezing to death.

"If you get caught in that floodwater, you will not be able to last very long," he said.

Honore is now retired from the military and speaks about emergency preparedness. He also is a CNN contributor. He spoke about the North Dakota floods earlier Friday.

CNN: How do you evacuate an entire town, especially when you're talking about tens of thousands of people?

Honore: The first thing you do is start with the most vulnerable population and get people to start moving now. The dilemma the local folks in Fargo and Bismarck have is that much of the population is involved with the sandbagging operation, which is good. But there comes a point in time where you need to start getting people to move, especially the most vulnerable people and animals that could get caught in the water. The problem in North Dakota is compounded by the temperature of the water.

If you recall last year, when we had the flooding in the Midwest, the water was warm. People could walk in there and they could walk out from small boats. But in this cold water, you can go into hypothermia quickly. If you get caught in that floodwater, you will not be able to last very long. If you're in there for a half hour, your body will start to deteriorate.

Early evacuations and getting people out and getting animals out is critical right now. And the long-term plan is how do we mitigate that and not have nursing homes inside a flood plain.

CNN: What are your biggest concerns at this point?

Honore: Getting people moving. You cannot depend on a sandbag dike to save your life. You put it up to try to save your property. Once you put it up, you need to leave, because that sandbag dike could break at any given time. The effectiveness of the sandbags deteriorates with the cold water because they don't hold the water in. They start leaking, and a leak turns into a flow, and a flow turns into a break.

So the effectiveness of the sandbag dikes is going to be questionable in that cold water.

CNN: How imperative is it for people to heed the warnings of local officials?

Honore: They need to move now if you're in the flood plains. If you have a break in the dike, it will start slow, but it will immediately burst through and you'll have a wall of water going down streets. And it'll be too late for people to get out.

And so anybody who is vulnerable at this point in time in low-lying areas ... needs to be evacuated. They need to start going door to door now and start seeking out the elderly and the disabled to make sure they have gotten all of them out of town. And then if there are any animals left behind they need to get those out, because if they get in that cold water they're going to have a tough time surviving.

CNN: Where do evacuations sometimes go wrong?

Honore: People get mixed messages. My thing on levees and dikes you put up is they're good to give you early warning and they're good to protect your property. But they're not good at saving your life, because they're too subject to break. The power of Mother Nature will break those levees and dikes, and it can break those sandbags.

It's a noble effort going on with the leadership and the volunteers to put up those sandbags. And you've got to praise the amount of time working people have put in. But that being said, you should not depend on that to save your life. Once you get those sandbags up, you need to move to high ground. And they need to get all of the evacuations done in the flood plains. The maps they have are very effective in showing where a flood plain is. Anybody sleeping overnight waiting for a horn to go off to tell them a levee has broken -- it's going to be too late to move.

People need to move now. Move their animals, move their property, any construction equipment, trucks, precious papers in their homes. All of that needs to be moved to high ground.

CNN: When you're dealing with the possibility of several different levee breaks, how does that affect evacuation plans?

Honore: It causes stress. Everybody who has a car is not an issue. The issue is with the elderly, the disabled and the poor who may not have vehicles. Get them all collected up now and move them to shelters. That's a very important thing to happen.

But people get mixed messages: 'We've got the dike up and we're confident it's going to hold.' Well, there's no confidence that a dike is going to hold. There's no confidence that a levee is going to hold. All of them over time we've seen can be overmatched by water.

So if you're behind there and you're depending on it to save your life, you should not. You should move now. They really need to start moving people now. It's mandatory evacuations, because sometimes you really gotta force people to leave. Now, they will tell you they have a constitutional right to stay in their home. But if you have a mobility issues with the elderly, I'm of the opinion you should have the authority to move them. If they stay in there and that levee breaks, again this will not be paddling around in waist deep 80 or 90 degree water; this water is 30 or 40 degrees. It will kill you.

This has the potential to be a lot worse than the last flooding they saw in the area.

CNN: Would that be your biggest concern that first responders and volunteers are doing all this hard work and they could rest on their laurels thinking they've made these areas safe?

Honore: That's right ...

There can be a sense of insurance that we've worked hard and we've put the dikes up. But I would not sleep behind those dikes. I would move people to high ground now, and that's what they need to be doing in North Dakota and Iowa.

I praise the first responders for the work they've done, but their priority now should be to get people out of the flood plains.

[Dikes and levees] are designed to save property, but they're not designed to save lives. People need to move.

CNN: What's your final message for residents in the region?

Honore: Get out of there. Leave some report folks to monitor what's going on. But get the people out of there. That should be the No. 1 priority. The Red Cross and FEMA have moved assets in there. Shelters are set up. The government has done a good job, from what I'm seeing, in giving early warning and being on top of the situation. But now is the time to get people evacuated.

And you know what? If they move and nothing happens, that's a good thing. If they stay and those bags break, it's going to be devastating on those people who get caught in that cold water.


River Levels:

Fargo: 40.66 feet
Grand Forks: 47.76 feet

Thursday, March 26, 2009

From Bad to Worse: Fargo Crest Up Two Feet

The current record Fargo crest of 40.1 feet (1897) will be shattered this spring, and within the hour it will probably be broken with a good 2+ feet to go by the end of the weekend.

If you're in Grand Forks, there's still plenty that needs to be done around here. If you're a UND student, check with student government to see where you're needed and they will shuttle you to those locations. If you are not a student, then you should call this number: (701)787-8052 or report to the Alerus Center. I should point out that I showed up at the Alerus Center today and it was very disorganized and there wasn't even anyone there coordinating anything, it was basically a pick-up spot for buses to come every half hour. The buses were running pretty late and it was unfortunate that no one was there to give any guidance, so keep that in mind if you decide to go to the Alerus Center.

They still need our help in the Lake Drive area, that's where I was today and I'm happy to say the turnout was tremendous. There was a large amount of people helping out at homes up and down Lake Drive, but it appeared there's more work to be done.

I do have a few cell phone pictures I snapped over the past few days, I really wish I could get better pictures but it's becoming extremely difficult with the city in full flood-protection mode, and I do not want to get in the way of city employees.

The first picture is of a large red helicopter I saw in Fargo, I'm assuming this is some kind of rescue chopper but I could be mistaken.

These next two pictures were taken on the way to Fargo on Tuesday.

These next couple of pictures are views of the railroad bridge from the top of a parking ramp downtown.

These next two pictures are of us sandbagging in Grand Forks.

A few random flood notes:

Meritcare hosptial in Fargo has evacuated its patients to various hospitals in the region, a first for the hospital.

Mandatory evacuations are underway in Moorhead for areas south of I-94 and west of Eighth Street.

Travel is becoming extremely difficult with multiple roads closed/ closing. A list of road closures in Fargo can be found here.

The North Dakota Department of Emergency Services has a great website for flood preparedness set up here that I recommend you all check out.

There are a couple of webcams set up following the Red River at Fargo and Grand Forks.

I'm sure there are ton of other announcements I'm missing, so keep checking out the Herald and Forum websites for up-to-date typo-laden information. I realize they're working much faster over there, but seriously, one word: PROOFREAD.

Example from the Herald's website yesterday afternoon:

"The Louis Murray closes will the river level at at or near 48 feet, and as of 8:30 a.m., the Red River was at 45.6 feet. That's an increase of 2.8 feet from the Wednesday."


Current River Levels

Fargo: 39.92 feet
Grand Forks: 47.21 feet