WASHINGTON, D.C. -- State and local officials in North Dakota are preparing for renewed flooding this spring that could rival flood levels of 1996. Officials are responding to National Weather Service (NWS) hydrology forecasts that the Red River has the potential to crest at Grand Forks sometime this spring at 46 feet, 18 feet above flood stage. Significant flooding is expected along the Red River from Grand Forks north to the Canadian border.
The city of Grand Forks has activated its Emergency Operations Plan and its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is ready for immediate activation as required. The Grand Forks City Council issued an emergency declaration on March 15, and the Grand Forks County Commission issued an emergency declaration the following day.
In anticipation of spring flooding, 500,000 sandbags have been pre-positioned for the city of Grand Forks. City officials have also been involved in flood protection planning activities on a daily basis as a result of recent NWS flood outlooks and the current weather conditions. Those activities include: reviewing potential levee alignments to accommodate different crest scenarios from 46 to 56 feet; finalizing a flood-fight plan for the water treatment plant; public meetings; and operational preparation of manpower, facilities and equipment.
Staff members from the State Water Commission and the North Dakota Emergency Management Office conducted a flood preparedness meeting March 17 in Ellendale. Local officials representing emergency management and water authorities from Dickey, LaMoure, Logan, McIntosh and Sargent counties participated. Similar meetings have been conducted in Valley City, Wahpeton, Fargo, Grand Forks and Pembina in late February.
Members of the North Dakota Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster discussed the spring flood potential during their meeting March 2 at the North Dakota Emergency Management Office at Fraine Barracks. The N.D. Department of Human Services participated in the meeting.
FEMA has been providing technical support assistance. The United States Army Corps of Engineers has continued to provide information on potential flood preparedness initiatives. The NWS and the U.S. Geological Survey are providing flood threat information to State and local officials on a daily basis.
Other preparations include an experiment of using sand to help accelerate melting of river ice and snow. At the direction of Governor Ed Schafer, the North Dakota National Guard conducted an "ice dusting" initiative on March 11, spreading approximately 7,000 pounds of clean, washed sand on stretches of the Goose River in Hillsboro and on the Park River in Grafton.
National Guard helicopter crews applied the sand in an effort to enhance snowmelt, reduce the formation of ice jams and improve the flow of water during the spring snowmelt. The ice dusting is believed to accelerate ice melting through the natural warming process associated with the dark color of the sand. Crews spread strips of sand measuring roughly three feet wide and one-half mile long in each location. Each load weighed approximately 2,000 pounds.
The U.S. Army Cold Region Research and Engineering Laboratory has been testing the effectiveness of the procedure. In 1997, the National Guard dusted more than 40 miles of river ice along the Sheyenne and Red Rivers.
Staff from FEMA's regional office in Denver (Region VIII) remain in contact with North Dakota officials on the spring flood situation.