Sunday, March 29, 2009
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
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.
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.
Fargo: 40.66 feet
Grand Forks: 47.76 feet
Thursday, March 26, 2009
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
Recognizing the needs of other communities, the University of North Dakota will cancel classes from noon today (Thursday, March 26), through Monday, March 30, to allow students to help with sandbagging and other flood protection needs. The University will remain open and will otherwise function normally.
“We are not closing out of fear for the University or the Cities of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks. But we understand that there are needs up and down the Red River Valley, and we recognize — and support — our students’ desire to continue to be involved in floodfighting activities,” said UND President Robert Kelley.
I'm very glad they decided to do this, now hopefully a large amount of students choose to volunteer and help sandbag up and down the region, now's the time to get out there more than ever before the crests come. It appears to be extremely difficult to get to Fargo now, and I wouldn't be surprised if they closed a section of I-29 this afternoon, so be extremely careful if you're traveling. If you're still in Grand Forks, your help is definitely needed.
Here's a couple of updates from the city:
Grand Forks, ND – This is a 2009 flood update from the Grand Forks County Emergency Operations Center.
There is an immediate need for up to 50 volunteers to assist with loading sandbags for County residents. Volunteers must call the Emergency Operations Center flood hotline number at (701) 787-8052 in order to volunteer.
This hotline is for people looking to volunteer, people looking for help from volunteers and people looking to receive sandbags.
This hotline has been established to aid County residents in their flood fight.
Grand Forks, ND – This is a 2009 flood update from the Grand Forks County Emergency Operations Center.
The Emergency Operations Center has implemented the flood hotline at (701) 787-8052.
This hotline is for people looking to volunteer, people looking for help from volunteers, and people looking to receive sandbags.
Sandbag central will work 24 hours a day while the demand is still in need for county residents. County residents are able to ask for filled sandbags. Filled sandbags will ONLY be delivered to those residents with property in EMINENT danger. Those needing sandbags have to call the hotline number to order sandbags.
Residents who are looking to volunteer are asked to call the hotline as volunteers will be needed to help county residents once they receive sandbags.
The current river level is 45.57 feet at 6:30 am on Thursday, March 26, 2009.
Again I will be sandbagging most of the day, and I really hope that you consider doing it as well, the help is definitely needed.
One more thing, check out this website for pictures of the flooding in the Mayville area: http://www.stevegunderson.org/
scroll to the bottom of the page to see the flood pictures.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
There is good news for people who want to help out around Grand Forks, I received a mass e-mail from the UND Student Government Office this morning saying there are locations right here in Grand Forks that need our help with sandbagging. Here's the original e-mail:
Thank you to everyone who signed up to volunteer down in Fargo. As of right now, all Wednesday shuttles going to Fargo have been canceled, but there are opportunities here in Grand Forks for those willing to give a helping hand.
For anyone interested in sandbagging here in Grand Forks, we have several addresses you can help at:
6801 Lake Drive, 6205 Lake Drive, 6721 Lake Drive, 6701 Lake drive, 6615 Lake Drive. ( get directions here: [link removed by me because the link in the email was a map of Tucson, AZ...which is pretty much the exact opposite of Grand Forks right now.)
There is also indoor sandbagging being conducted starting at 10:00 am at a farm shop right across the road from the beginning of Lake Drive. (Instead of turning onto Lake Drive turn in the opposite direction and the shop is straight ahead.)
Anyone interested should contact the Student Government Office to let us know which address you plan on going to. This will help us coordinate efforts to be most effective. People should try to carpool in four-wheel drive vehicles.
We encourage volunteers to help with these efforts, but we must remember to keep safety first. Due to poor road conditions students should exercise extreme caution when traveling around Grand Forks, and everyone should dress warmly. Due to high snowfall we also recommend gloves and boots when at all possible.
If anyone has any questions please contact the Student Government Office at (701) 777-4377.
Keep checking your e-mail for more updates.
Tyrone & Mike
I made my own map of where the sandbagging is needed, as far as I can tell it's all along Lake Street in extreme southeast Grand Forks (I think I rode my bike here in an earlier blog post).
View Larger Map
Exercise extreme caution, it's still a dangerous trip even though it's local. Dress appropriately for winter!
Also, I caught a picture of Mayville on the news last night and saw the Pizza Shop is almost completely submerged...for those familiar with Mayville, that's a lot of water. If anyone has any pictures of Mayville's flood, please send them to me! I don't think people realize how bad it is there.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Also, I just noticed a crawl on my TV screen saying Grafton needs immediate help shoring up their dikes, so if you're reading this and you're in the Grafton area, please consider helping out. Instructions were to meet at the Grafton City Hall. Dress warm, and bring gloves.
I drove over the Red today and noticed an extreme increase in traffic. There are a lot of curious folks out there who want to see exactly what's going on. The city urged people to stay away and not go look at the River...but I mean really, that's like setting a steak in front of a dog and telling him not to eat it. We definitely have a right to see the river that taxpayers have paid plenty of money protecting against. Now I don't necessarily condone driving back and forth over the bridges to gawk at the river while it is much easier to just park downtown and walk to see it for yourself. That's what I did tonight where I snapped the following pictures:
Definitely a lot different than it was this summer:
Alright, I need some sleep...then it's back to Fargo again tomorrow morning.
As of this post,
Red River @ Fargo: 32.59 feet
Red River @ Grand Forks: 38.88 feet
Also, it appears they will be closing the Sorlie (DeMers) bridge tomorrow morning at 10 am.
From the Herald...
Volunteers answer call to Grafton; official says there's enough help for nowGrafton, N.D., is discouraging out-of-town volunteers from driving to the city Tuesday night to help with sandbagging due to icy roads and a no travel advisory for Walsh County, according to a city official.
City Auditor Connie Johnson said they will probably need more volunteers Wednesday morning and during the day, but she strongly encouraged those interested to call the volunteer hotline at (701) 360-3281 before driving to town.Current information on the city’s flood fight can also be found at www.graftongov.com.
I know Moorhead residents may feel like the spotlight's all on Fargo, but anyone willing to help out in Moorhead, here's the info:
Volunteering to Help
Volunteers for sandbagging can show up all week between 8:00 AM & 8:00 PM at Nemzek Hall on the MSUM campus. Nemzek Hall is located on 17th street between 6th and 7th avenue south. Please car pool if possible. You must bring an ID. All volunteers must fill out a registration form. Minors must bring the form signed by their parent/guardian.
Quick Grand Forks update: Red River is at 36.32 ft as I type this post, which is a little bit higher than they predicted at this moment. Point Bridge is closed as well as the Greenway. To my knowledge there is no need for a large amount of volunteers, I will of course update this if I find out anything more.
Please feel free to leave a comment about your own flood story, story of volunteering, or any helpful flood-related information.
I will get a new picture of the Red in Grand Forks when I return from Fargo tonight.
Monday, March 23, 2009
While I've given Grand Forks most of the attention regarding this year's flood, it appears that Fargo will be hit much harder. The weather is not cooperating with moderate to heavy precipitation forecast to linger all week. The Red River is currently at 25.71 feet in Fargo, which falls in the designated "Moderate Stage." The highest level ever recorded at Fargo-Moorhead was 40.1 feet in 1897; that record could be broken very soon. The new flood outlook states that the Red River could reach as high as 39-41 feet by as early as Friday.
“Volunteers – it’s time to take this thing seriously,”Fargo mayor Dennis Walaker pleaded at a press conference today to discuss the flood. There's still a lot of work to be done, and they need all the help they can get. So if you're reading this and you want to help make a difference, get to Fargo and start sandbagging.
The University of North Dakota has sent out a mass e-mail encouraging students to help with sandbagging efforts as well:
There's a bus that leaves at 1 and a bus that leaves at 5. I'll be one of them. I couldn't ask all of you to get out there without volunteering myself could I? All kidding aside, Fargo needs our help..so let's get to it.
I would love to hear any stories about volunteer efforts, send in your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org . I would also love to see ANY flood related pictures, send them into me and I'll give you full credit. Especially any Fargo-Moorhead area readers out there.
A quick Grand Forks update, we are currently at 31.33 feet, which falls in the "Flood Stage" according to the National Weather Service. We are forecast to hit 50.9 feet by the end of this weekend, as always I will keep you posted.
So throw on some work clothes and get to Fargo, they really do need our help.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
The National Weather Service in Grand Forks is forecasting a significant storm in our area starting tomorrow and lasting into next week. This storm could bring with it around 2 inches of rain as well as a wide variety of other possibilities such as thunderstorms, freezing rain, and yes...snow. This is extremely unfortunate for our area as it will only worsen our flood situation. It's strange how all of these things seem to be falling into place to make this flood more intense.
Yesterday, I snapped a few pictures from my cell phone on the East Grand Forks side of the Red River by DeMers. I apologize for the quality, but you can see where the river stands now and it will be a good point of reference for when it starts rising. Like I said before, I plan to keep you updated with pictures of the river as it rises to various levels so check back often.
So today I took a brief stroll on the Greenway near the 47th Ave. S. access point.. or maybe it was 49th? Well, you get the idea. South.
It's kind of depressing to look at everything and see how brown and dead it is...on a cloudy day no less. This is a far cry from how great the Greenway looked in the summer. Soon enough we'll see green again.
The Mighty Red will rise again soon unfortunately...
Ah, my favorite piece of random playground equipment:
Not sure if this is flood preparation or if they just don't want anyone using this access point.
Just thought this was cool looking, whatever kind of plant it is. Are those clovers? Sorry, I'm definitely not a botanist.
That's all I have for today, check back often for more flood updates!
Friday, March 13, 2009
As Spring draws closer and closer, there's an uneasy feeling around Grand Forks, as well as everywhere else along the Red River. That feeling is understandable, because it's becoming more apparent that the Red is gonna rise again. A lot of residents knew it was bad news when we had record setting precipitation in the Fall. Then came the first blizzard of Winter, along with a ton of snow. After that was the bitter cold, which doesn't really affect the flood outlook as much as it just pisses us all off. It appears Winter made its final roar this month with Blizzard Coyote and gave us all the middle finger by dumping even more snow on us. Now the forecast calls for warmer temperatures, it looks like highs in the 40s next week. That's great and all, but it also means it's time to start thinking about that 5-letter word no Grand Forks resident ever wants to hear: Flood.
The National Weather Service in Grand Forks released their latest flood outlook probabilities and gave a 50% chance of the river reaching 50 feet. They also gave a 10%-20% chance of flood levels exceeding the 54.4 foot record level reached in 1997. Keep in mind that those are pretty slim odds. Even if the river did exceed that level, the levee is good up to 60 feet. The odds of us seeing anything even REMOTELY close to the nightmare of 1997 are extremely slim.
Here's some perspective on flood levels for Grand Forks:
|60.0||Top of the levee constructed by Corps of Engineers for City of Grand Forks.|
|54.4||Record flood level. 22 April 1997...from floodmarks.|
|53.0||Top of the rails on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad Bridge over the Red River.|
|52.6||Water on Gateway Drive approach to Kennedy Bridge in East Grand Forks.|
|47.0||Begin Railroad closure if water is expected to rise to over 50 feet.|
|46.2||Water on Demers Avenue at Sorlie Bridge.|
|46.0||Major Flood Stage.|
|45.0||Sorlie Bridge...Demers Avenue is closed. Top of the elevation of the low level levee protecting Riverside Park.|
|44.9||Water on East Grand Forks approach to the Point Bridge.|
|42.0||Road entering Riverside Park is closed.|
|41.5||Flood gates on English Coulee are closed, pump station and diversion gates are activated.|
|40.0||Moderate flood stage. Extensive flooding along greenway for Grand Forks.|
|38.0||Flood gates are closed in Grand Forks and storm water pumping stations are activated.|
|34.0||East Grand Forks water encroaching 4th St underpass of Highway 2.|
|33.0||Agricultural flooding between Oslo and Grand Forks. Agricultural damage begins at river mile 271 - 296.|
|28.0||Flood warning stage...minor. Bank full stage.|
|27.0||Forecast Service Stage.|
This is the page you want to keep your eyes on for details about flood levels. Other good sites to keep you updated are the Grand Forks Herald website and National Weather Service- Grand Forks Office's website.
Don't start panicking, but do keep informed. I will continue to follow the flood and post pictures up showing the different stages the river reaches this spring.
Until then, enjoy the warmer weather! We can actually go outside again!
Also, for those with short memories, I found a USGS site with pictures from 2006's flood.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
The North Dakota Highway Patrol issued a no-travel advisory for our entire area, but still UND just chugs along like it was any other day. I do realize that professors have canceled class at their own discretion, but some don't...and I even had a test today that I trekked through this mess to get to. You would think that city employees trying to keep the roads clean as well as police officers trying to keep the roads safe would appreciate it if more people stayed off the roads. UND definitely is not doing their part, and I just do not understand why. Why are they so reluctant? NDSU closed for this most recent blizzard as well as for the blizzard that crippled the area in December and UND didn't even blink.
Anyways...here's a view of the mess from my window. This picture really doesn't do this storm justice, but I don't anticipate going outside for the rest of the day so this will have to do. The first day of Spring is in 10 days, surely the snow will be gone by then! .....i'm going back to bed.
Also if you're curious, the Grand Forks Herald is the group responsible for naming the blizzards in our area. They named this one Coyote in honor of Thompson resident Nancy Yoshida's lead dog. Yoshida is competing in this year's Iditarod race in Alaska. The other two blizzards were named Barack and Allie.
Of course not even an hour after I post this UND decides to shut down after all:
Clearly they closed down as a result of reading this blog.
Probably not...but this is still too little, too late, the vast majority of students have already had their classes and there are very few with classes after 3:30. I will consider this them admitting they made a mistake by opening at all today...but like I said, too little too late.