FEMA Responding to Flooding, Flood Risk in Six Western States

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Release date: 
June 9, 2011
Release Number: 
R8-11-015

DENVER, Colo. -- Fueled by historically heavy mountain snowfall and unusually prolific spring rains, flooding emergencies are ongoing in three of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Region VIII six states. Two states, North Dakota and South Dakota, have major federal disaster declarations and the third, Montana, is seeking a major disaster declaration.

In the coming weeks, the amount of increased Missouri River flows that are planned through Bismarck-Mandan, N.D., and Pierre-Fort Pierre, S.D., will be record-setting and the equivalent of nearly two Olympic-size swimming pools passing by every second.

In addition, potential flooding is possible in FEMA Region VIII's other three states as mountain snowpack measuring as much as three or four times that of an average year begins melting. As a result, large sections of Colorado, Utah and Wyoming remain "areas of concern" for local, state and federal officials. The severity of possible flooding is largely contingent on whether warm temperatures and rain accelerate melting.

FEMA response

  • FEMA's Region VIII Regional Response Coordination Center (RRCC) in Lakewood, Colo., has been in operation since May 15, engaging in regular coordination and information-sharing with FEMA resources in the field, other FEMA regions and Washington, D.C., headquarters and various federal partners, including the U.S Army Corps of Engineers, National Weather Service and Health and Human Services. In addition, FEMA is working with voluntary and non-profit partners, including the American Red Cross.

The RRCC remains open seven days a week until further notice.

Missouri flooding in the Dakotas:

  • Most of the current flooding in North Dakota and South Dakota, where the federal disasters have been declared, is caused by unprecedented flows into and out of the Missouri River mainstem dams. The ever-increasing amounts of water are being released from the reservoirs to prevent the dams from being topped, which could send out-of-control flows downstream;
  • The high flows out of Garrison Dam in North Dakota and Oahe, Big Bend, Fort Randall and Gavins Point dams in South Dakota could last into mid-August;
  • FEMA established an Incident Support Base at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota so that supplies can be sent to staging areas and ultimately transferred to North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana for distribution to survivors. Commodities delivered last week  included 67,000 liters of water, 45,000 meals, 20,000 blankets, 10,000 cots, two shuttle drivers and 21 trucks. The water and meals are enough for 20,000 people for one day and the blankets and cots would supply 10,000 people;
  • FEMA's Mobile Emergency Support (MERS) assets were deployed to North Dakota and South Dakota for aiding in emergency communications and response efforts, providing supplementary cell coverage, mobile video situational awareness and backup radio communications.

North Dakota:

  • Temporary levees are being built to withstand the expected flood crest along the Missouri in Bismarck and Mandan. Individual homeowners also have been sandbagging properties along the river since the fourth week of May;
  • Flooding on the Souris River at Minot caused a local evacuation order on May 31 of more than 10,000 people, nearly a quarter of the city’s population. FEMA responded to a request from the state for standby resources with 2,500 cots and 5,000 blankets, enough for 2,500 people;
  • A Major Disaster was declared May 10 for statewide flooding occurring Feb. 14 and continuing and now covers 40 of the state’s 53 counties and three tribal reservations. In addition, an April 7 presidential Emergency Declaration allowed direct federal assistance to prepare for flooding in numerous counties, freeing up life-saving, life-sustain...
Last Updated: 
July 19, 2012 - 23:02
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