Statewide Category Archive: Flooding
Posted at 7:32 AM on May 1, 2013
by David Cazares
Filed under: Flooding
MPR Photo/Conrad Wilson
By Dan Gunderson
This year's Red River spring flood in Fargo-Moorhead is the latest on record, and perhaps one of the most over predicted floods.
Earlier this spring, the National Weather Service offered a probabilistic flood outlook - an early estimate of flooding potential - and predicted the Red River in Fargo-Moorhead would reach a crest of 38 to 42 feet. The upper range of that outlook would have been a record-breaking flood, and the possibility kicked flood preparations in Fargo into high gear. Volunteers filled more than 1 million sandbags and contractors constructed several miles of emergency levees.
Cost for that work will top $2 million.
But after several revisions lowering the crest levels each time, the Red River in Fargo is predicted to crest today at just over 33 feet. That's more than six feet below the record level and more than four feet below the low end of the weather service outlook.
The sandbag dikes will all stay dry this year, Fargo Senior Engineer April Walker said.
"It can be frustrating but at the same time it's way better to be prepared than to have the crest rise and not be prepared for that," she said.
Walker said the city must prepare for the river levels that the National Weather Service predicts.
What happened with the predictions?
The conditions made for an ideal spring melt; gradual with temperatures above freezing during the day and below freezing at night. The Red River Valley also avoided several storm systems that could have added more water to the region.
But those factors were part of the initial outlook from the National Weather Service and should have resulted in a river level near the lower end of the prediction: 38 feet.
Steve Buan, a hydrologist for the weather service, said this spring flood also exposed a weakness in the flood prediction model. It didn't adequately account for the drought that dried out the landscape last summer.
The late spring melt meant the soil thawed and absorbed much more water than forecasters expected.
"And also I think some of the factors of the dry fall with the depressional storage, the marshes and sloughs that typically hold water, that probably wasn't taken as much into account numerically within the model as what's actually occurring out on the landscape," Buan said.
The same weakness in the flood predication model was evident in 2009 when the Red River reached a record level of 40.8 feet.
That was near the top of the range predicted by the National Weather Service, with about a five percent chance of happening, and the high water caught Fargo- Moorhead by surprise, prompting an intense effort to keep the cities from flooding.
In the spring of 2009, conditions were the exact opposite of 2013. Sloughs and wetlands were all full to the top after a wet summer the year before. The saturated soil then froze and a rapid snow melt in March meant very little water was stored on the landscape or in the soil. Most of the snowmelt flowed into rivers, leading to a record flood.
The National Weather Service flood prediction model can accurately adjust for soil moisture and wetland storage on a small scale, down to about four square miles, according to Buan.
But he said attempts to scale that prediction power up to hundreds or thousands of square miles for an entire watershed or the Red River Valley basin does not work.
There's just too much variation across the landscape. And the land is constantly being manipulated, Buan said. Some fields have drain tile installed , new ditches dug or old ones cleaned. All of those activities change the dynamics of snowmelt runoff.
This was a tough year to be a river forecaster, but Buan said criticism for missing the forecast goes with the territory. He hopes this flood will raise some questions that improve future forecasting.
"Usually things like this spur research," he said. "Somebody will take this on and want to explore exactly what happened and that will feed back into the predictive process."
The information from the 2013 Red River flood will also influence future predictions. It will take about two years to review all of the data and check it for accuracy. Then the latest flood on record will be one of the 60 scenarios the computer model can consider for future forecasting.
Posted at 12:40 PM on April 18, 2013
by Dan Gunderson
Filed under: Flooding
This computer simulation shows a 42-foot level for the Red River. Dark blue areas are river flooding. Orange shows the areas protected by levees. Light blue shows sections that would be affected by back up of flood water through the storm sewer system.
Image courtesy RRBDIN.org
The earliest flood record in Fargo-Moorhead lasted for 100 years until a new mark was established in 1997. Then the flood in 2009 set a brand new high water record.
Just four years later, National Weather Service forecasters say that mark could be broken.
The trend in recent history is toward ever larger floods. If that trend continues, at some point there will be a Red River flood that Fargo-Moorhead cannot defend against.
The numbers tell this story best.
In 1989, the Red River reached 35.4 feet. That flood fight demanded a major effort. Homes were flooded, but the communities were mostly spared. A new bar was set: cities needed to protect from flood waters up to 36 feet.
Fast forward to 1997. The Red River crested at 39.7 feet in Fargo-Moorhead. After an intense, at times desperate effort, the communities kept the water at bay, but only by inches. There was significant damage to private and public property.
Also that year, the Red River inundated Grand Forks, East Grand Forks and Breckenridge, causing billions of dollars in damage. As a result of the catastrophic flooding, Grand Forks and East Grand Forks received federal aid for a massive new levee system and funds were approved for a diversion channel around Breckenridge.
After the 1997 flood, mitigation efforts gained momentum up and down the Red River valley. Fargo and Moorhead bought people's homes and homeowners who stayed near the river began to build permanent levees to replace backyard sandbag dikes. That year set the bar even higher. Protecting Fargo-Moorhead to a 36-foot river level was no longer enough.
In 2009, the record Red River flood level set in 1997 fell as the river reach 40.8 feet. Once again a massive emergency response protected Fargo and Moorhead, but with only inches to spare.
After 2009, flood mitigation efforts kicked into high gear. Since then, Moorhead has purchased more than 200 homes, and Fargo more than 100. New permanent earthen levees were constructed to 44 feet, a significant safety margin over the record flood level of 40.8 feet.
This year, the National Weather Service gives the river a 10-percent chance of reaching 42 feet. It's still too early to know how accurate that statistical prediction will be, but the trend does not bode well for Fargo-Moorhead.
Each time flood waters have set a new record, the cities have responded by building levees higher. The problem with that scenario is that the levees can't go any higher.
For a levee to work, it must connect on each end with higher ground. But Fargo and Moorhead are built on what was once the flat bottom of a glacial lake. Beyond a 44-foot elevation, engineers get nervous, there's not much high ground to be found.
Because of that, a U.S. Army Corp of Engineers study found levees inadequate for permanent flood protection. The Corp of Engineers has recommended a $1.8 billion diversion channel. The diversion hasn't been authorized or funded by Congress. IF that happens, construction will take a decade.
If floods continue to trend higher, it's only a matter of time before the Red River throws a punch for which there is no defense.
That's why officials in Fargo and Moorhead are pushing so hard for permanent flood protection, and hoping they get that protection in time.
The Red River flood this year might just break a record as the latest major spring flood in history.
Historical flood data for Fargo-Moorhead shows there've been 15 floods when water was above the 30 foot level. Thirty feet is considered major flood stage.
The latest the river has reached a flood crest is April 19th, 1979.
The destructive flood of 1997 reached its peak on April 18th. (There have been a couple of June and July flood crests unrelated to spring flooding)
The U.S. Geological Survey and the National Weather Service both issued advisories this week that spring flooding is likely to be delayed beyond April 15th.
The NWS says the jet stream is keeping warm air south of the Red River Valley, delaying the snow melt.
According to the NWS, data for Fargo show that March 2013 was the sixth coldest since hydrological observations began in 1900.
The NWS ranked the month of March as the 14th coldest average temperature, the 12th snowiest, and the 11th wettest (including rain and melted snow) for Fargo.
This year also had the deepest average snow depth for the last day of March since weather records began in Fargo in the mid-1880s.
Below normal temperatures are expected to continue into mid April. That will bring a slow snow melt which could reduce flood risk.
On the other hand, forecasters say a change in the weather pattern expected the second half of April will bring an increased risk of significant rainfall.
A two inch rain on top of melting snow could quickly change the flood outlook.
Posted at 1:48 PM on December 17, 2012
by Dan Kraker
Filed under: Flooding
I've been covering the Northland flash flood of 2012 (as it's officially been dubbed) for almost six months now. In that time I've seen a lot of ruined homes and tears shed. But I've also seen an incredible sense of resolve and can-do spirit across the region. I hadn't seen much hopelessness, until I traveled to Moose Lake in early December and met Linda Berg.
With her mail piled up in front of her and sections of her home's siding decaying, Linda Berg spends a few quiet moments by herself on Thursday, December 6, 2012 at her home in Moose Lake, Minn...Berg has moved out of the house she has lived in for more than 50 years after it was almost totally destroyed in flooding from nearby Moosehorn Lake. Now living in an apartment, Berg says she can't stand to give up the address so she returns each day to collect mail and make sure the "two wilder cats" have food, water and a working warming pad.
Photographer Derek Montgomery and I had finished interviewing Berg and touring her flood-destroyed house. We were getting in the car, when I noticed her sitting in a lawn chair in her garage. It was freezing, a major storm was blowing in. But like she's been doing every day since she had to leave her home, she's returned to "spend some time with an old friend," as she described it. The 65-year-old has lived in this house for the past half century.
What was tough about our conversation with Ms. Berg was her sense of hopelessness, that she couldn't afford to fix the house she loved. And maybe she can't. But she hasn't asked for any help, she hasn't filled out any of the applications needed to get her in the pipeline for possible assistance from state, federal and private resources.
While aid has been slow to get to some places hard hit by the flood, including Carlton County, millions of dollars in help has been disbursed, and officials are optimistic many more will be sent out in the next several months. They know there are people out there like Linda Berg, people who still need help. They just need them to ask for it.
Based in Duluth, Dan Kraker covers the Arrowhead region for Minnesota Public Radio News
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will preview initial design work for the Red River flood diversion project Tuesday at public meeting in Fargo.
Designers are starting at the end of the diversion channel and working back to the beginning. At the meeting, they'll preview a four-mile section of the 36-mile-long diversion which is designed to reduce flood risk for Fargo Moorhead.
The nearly $2 billion project can't be constructed until Congress authorizes construction and funds the federal share of the project. Congress has provided funding for initial design work.
The federal government would pay about $800 million of the project cost; state and local governments need to pay the rest. If the project receives congressional approval, construction would take about a decade.
The Corps of Engineers is also holding an information meeting on June 27 in Fargo for contractors interested in learning more about the project.
A local arts based initiative wants Fargo Moorhead residents to volunteer in the community as a way to celebrate a flood free spring.
Fargo Moorhead residents battled major Red River floods each of the past three years. Thousands volunteered to fill and place sandbags during those floods. This spring the river is meekly flowing within its banks. There's no need for sandbags in Fargo Moorhead this spring, so organizers are trying to tap the community spirit of volunteerism for other community needs.
The exhibit brings together several artists to pose questions, or identify issues related to flooding. This image from the exhibit depicts Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker as Moses.
The volunteer effort is called River Inspired Service Engine (R.I.S.E) and it aims to inspire local residents to focus energy they won't use fighting a flood to volunteer for everything from community clean-up projects, to helping local non-profit agencies to creating their own volunteer initiative.
Volunteers looking for a place to help can contact FirstLink, the organization that coordinates sandbag volunteers during floods, but also manages volunteers for a variety of local organizations.
The volunteer initiative continues through the month of May.
(Photo courtesy of the Granite Falls Advocate Tribune)
Spanning the Minnesota River in downtown Granite Falls, it looks like a mini Brooklyn Bridge
The Minnesota suspension bridge is only for foot traffic, but it is related to the big city structure.
Both were designed by the same firm, the Roebling Company.
The Granite Falls Advocate Tribune reports that the 87-year-old pedestrian bridge in the southwest Minnesota community is going to get some much-needed fixing.
For many people, the best known images of the bridge may be when it's submerged in a springtime flood:
(Photo courtesy of the Granite Falls Advocate Tribune)
During times of high water, people often wonder if the bridge can survive the onslaught. It long has. But the rehab should make it better able to withstand any future floods.
National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Rocco Landesman visited Fargo Thursday to talk about a public art project he says the NEA will use as a model across the country.
Fargo received a $100,000 NEA grant to turn a large drainage basin into a public art space. The funding comes from the NEA Our Town program. The city will provide matching funds, mostly in staff time coordinating the project.
The city has been building these drainage basins for the past 10 years to catch runoff from heavy summer rains and prevent street flooding. The basins are empty most of the year, typically only holding water for a short time after a heavy rain.
Local artists will work with Jackie Brookner, an ecological artist from New York, to develop a plan for making the drainage basins into a space that's pleasing aesthetically and can be used for recreation.
Landesman says he liked the Fargo idea of incorporating art into community infrastructure.
"We're going to do much more public art, community based, and this is a perfect example," he says. ""We're making the point the arts are part of the real economy of this country. There are five million arts related jobs in this country."
The project will be designed over the next several months.
Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker says the basins are now used only by ducks and geese.
He challenged local artists to come up with ideas to make the sites useful and beautiful.
Walaker called the project a great example of "thinking outside the box".
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is taking one final round of public comments on a proposed $1.8 billion 36 mile flood diversion project to protect Fargo Moorhead.
The comment period closes Nov. 7.
In December, the Corps of Engineers is expected to approve the project. That would set the stage for a challenging effort to convince Congress to commit some $800 million to the project.
The local share is a staggering $979 million. Minnesota's share of that is estimated to be around $350 million.
The Corps has pulled together an amazing amount of data in developing this project.
Some interesting tidbits: The Red River at Fargo Moorhead has exceeded flood stage every year since 1993.
In the Fargo Moorhead area, local governments have spent $342 million on permanent flood protection since 1990, including buying more than 500 homes in flood prone areas. Moorhead officials this week approved a new $37 million plan to do still more improvements. Even with all those improvements the communities are still susceptible to any flood a foot or two higher than the record flood of 2009.
The Corps estimates a catastrophic flood could cause up to $10 billion in damages.
The proposed diversion project will likely go to congress for authorization and funding early next year. Everyone agrees federal funding will be difficult. In fact, Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker gives the project a less than 50 percent chance of being built.
Posted at 2:36 PM on June 27, 2011
by Dan Gunderson
Filed under: Flooding
The flooding and evacuation of Minot is a tragic situation for thousands. And like always, the response to disaster seems to puzzle people who live elsewhere.
Would you trust a stranger who backed into your driveway and offered to haul your worldly possessions to high ground? Lots of people along the Souris River apparently did.
I noted this recently in the comment section of a CNN report about the evacuation in Minot, "now the looting begins."
I haven't heard any reports of looting as yet.
But I did chuckle when I read a recent report from the emergency manager in Velva, N.D. Velva is a town of about 1,000 located in the Souris River Valley.
At the end of a report about frantic efforts to mount clay levee and sandbag defenses and fix broken water mains was this paragraph.
"Velva Fresh Foods and the Souris Valley Care Center are providing meals for the contractors and National Guard. Cookies and bars are needed. If possible, please package 2-3 cookies or non-crumbling bars in plastic bags and deliver to Cenex C-Store today (Sunday) between 1:00 - 1:30 pm. "
Now that's emergency management, Midwest style!
Posted at 8:24 AM on June 27, 2011
by Michael Olson
Filed under: Flooding
The Souris River is slowly retreating in Minot, N.D., where the river peaked early Sunday at levels not seen in more than a century. About 4,000 homes are flooded and a quarter of the town's 40,000 residents are displaced.
There is a constant stream of dump trucks crossing the main bridge in downtown Minot. Construction crews continue to build, fill and shore up levees aimed at keeping what's left of the town dry.
The city's records date back to the late 1800s, and they show there's never been this much water coming through town (NPR).
About a quarter of the city's 41,000 residents have been displaced by flooding, and the American Red Cross typically expects about 10 percent of evacuees will need its shelters. Yet shelters here report only about 330 evacuees, leading many to believe that the rest have found refuge with friends and families near and far. (Grand Forks Herald)
Heavy rain near Minot is leading to an expedited evacuation of the area. Rain also flooded streets in St.Cloud last night. Residents in both cities are concerned about additional precipitation in the forecast.
The level of urgency in Minot is heightened as the city prepares for flooding that will dwarf the historic flood of 1969. Minot Mayor Curt Zimbelman announced late this afternoon that a 2-inch rain in the area has forced the city to move up its evacuation time. (WDAY)
Minot flooding costs are expected to reach or top $90 million.
Live weather coverage from North Dakota's KX News.
It isn't clear if there will be significant damage related to flooding in St. Cloud.
For a while late Tuesday afternoon, it seemed as though Central Minnesota was either going to sink or float away.
A line of storms dumped more than 2 inches of water on St. Cloud in a couple of hours before the drops finally stopped about 6 p.m. (Saint Cloud Times)
Also clicking on MN TodayBemidji Faces the Future: Focus on poverty Many different voices took part in a public conversation about poverty in Bemidji.
"Bemidji Faces the Future" drew about 90 people to the American Indian Resource Center at Bemidji State University Tuesday night. The event was sponsored by Minnesota Public Radio News, Lakeland Public Television and the Bemidji Pioneer, which collaborated to focus on poverty in Bemidji.
"It's a hard story to tell," said Kate Smith, senior editor at MPR News, who led the conversation. "It's a hard story to hear" (Bemidji Pioneer).
Round-up of coverage leading up to the event.
As state shutdown nears, county evaluates
Nine days and counting. On July 1, Minnesota's government will shut down -- and many state-funded programs and services will cease to operate -- unless the Legislature can broker an agreement on the state's biennium budget (Faribault.com).
Zebra mussels may benefit from government shutdown
Minnesota Budget problems could mean bad news for those trying to protect their lakes from Aquatic Invasive Species (WDAY).
Winona-area lawmakers diverge on shutdown pay
While many state employees could find themselves out of work next month, state legislators could continue to receive paychecks (Winona Daily News).
Planned Parenthood closures
Planned Parenthood closing local site
After nearly 40 years, the Planned Parenthood clinic in Fairmont is closing (Fairmont Sentinel).
Albert Lea clinic among six closed by Planned Parenthood
Minnesota's largest provider of family planning and abortions says it will close six clinics, including one in Red Wing and another in Albert Lea (Rochester Post Bulletin).
Planned Parenthood to close Aug. 1
Brainerd's Planned Parenthood clinic, a fixture here since 1972, will close Aug. 1.(Brainerd Dispatch)
Sam Cook: Minnesota grouse drumming counts remain high
It looks as if Minnesota grouse hunters will get another year of good hunting near the peak of the ruffed grouse 10-year population cycle.
Booker T Rocks the Garden
Booker T. Jones is a bona fide legend. He brought the crowd to its feet and helped break Rock the Garden's rain clouds with his deep, soulful groove.
Jones grabbed the crowd's attention early on with his long-standing hit "Green Onions" and proceeded to take it from new to classic, with renditions of Lauryn Hill's "Everything is Everything" and Outkast's "Hey Ya" all the way to Otis Redding's standard "I've Been Loving You Too Long" and Sam and Dave's "Hold On." (The Current)
Shot in central South Dakota in late march-early april. It was the first time I've had the chance to use, an Orion head mounted on the Dynamic Perception Stage Zero dolly. http://www.dynamicperception.com
Heavy rain and flash floods destroyed more than half of the 700 homes and businesses in the southeastern Minnesota community of Rushford in 2007.
For weeks after the deluge, most of the town's businesses remained closed and nearly all the damaged homes empty. The rain washed away homes, destroyed infrastructure and killed seven people.
Among the losses: the historic pipe organ inside Rushford's stone-built Emmanuel Episcopal Church.
But slowly, the town rebuilt.
Nearly four years later, residents of Rushford and congregants of this small church will gather this weekend for a dedication ceremony in honor of the restored pipe organ.
This is a big deal for this small community. The rebuilt organ has been expanded from nine ranks to ten ranks with a solid state switching system. The console has been rebuilt and updated as well as the blower. And the wind chest and pipes--not damaged in the flood--are the originals.
Brian Williams, director of music and the arts at Calvary Episcopal Church in Rochester, will direct the Motet Choir from Calvary at the dedication. Mayo Clinic Carilloneur Jeffrey Daehn will also be on hand to give instrument demonstrations.
The dedication will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, 217 West Jessie Street in Rushford. A reception will follow. The public is welcome to join in the celebration in honor of the restored pipe organ.
For more information, email Ben Scott at email@example.com.
Posted at 1:02 PM on May 4, 2011
by Dan Gunderson
Filed under: Flooding
The Cass County, N.D., sheriffs department is still patrolling roads closed or damaged by floodwaters, as flooding remains a problem in some rural areas of the Red River Valley.
This week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency recognized the department's work in the 2011 flood. Region 8 FEMA Administrator Robin Finegan sent a letter to Sheriff Paul Laney praising the sheriffs Tactical Operations Center set up to respond to flood emergencies.
The TOC helps coordinate emergency response among local, state and federal agencies including the North Dakota National Guard, the North Dakota Highway Patrol, the United States Coast Guard, the United States Customs and Border Protection, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
The Tactical Operations Center uses smart board technology to allow emergency responders to pull up photos of every home and road in the county.
FEMA staff were apparently impressed with the operation. In her letter to the sheriff, Regional Director Finegan wrote "FEMA's Response Operations staff plans to propose this Tactical Operations Center (TOC) approach as a 'best practice' for national implementation."
Posted at 10:15 AM on April 15, 2011
by Mark Steil
Filed under: Flooding
With the flood waters receding in southern Minnesota, the damage assessment can begin. Federal Emergency Management Agency personnel, along with state and local officials, are looking first at damage along the Minnesota River.
Three assessment teams are looking at flood damage this week in 15 counties stretching from the South Dakota border to the Twin Cities, said Doug Nevile, a spokesman for the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
Neville said the surveys will begin in northern Minnesota, possibly next week, as the Red River recedes. Eventually the survey teams will come up with a statewide dollar figure for 2011 flood damage/costs.
"That will give us an indication as to whether or not the governor will request a presidential disaster declaration," Neville said.
In Chippewa County, which includes the city of Montevideo, flood costs could be as much as $500,000, Emergency Management Director Marvin Garbe said.
Garbe, who joined the assessment team surveying damage in the southwestern Minnesota county, said that includes both protective measures like sandbagging, as well as damage to roads, culverts and other public infrastructure.
Neville said the damage assessment teams like to get into the field as soon as possible, but they have to wait for the water to start going down.
"If it's underwater they can't see the damage", he said.
Posted at 11:00 AM on April 8, 2011
by Dan Gunderson
Filed under: Flooding
Volunteers and homeowners handing sandbags down the line in Fargo got a few surprises this year.
The North Dakota State University sandbag art project decorated thousands of sandbags like this one spotted atop a pile of unused bags in a south Fargo neighborhood.
The project was the idea of Michael Strand, associate professor of visual arts at NDSU. He took several thousand empty sandbags and distributed them to places like daycare centers and senior living facilities. The bags were decorated with permanent markers.They were then added to the stacks of sandbags filled earlier this year at sandbag central in Fargo.
Strand said the idea was to maybe bring a smile to tired sandbaggers. He also used it as a teaching tool for his art students.
"It gets our students to think about the inclusion of community with their own work," he said. "Art can exist as creative activity, community outreach, research and service all at the same time."
It's likely Fargo will have more than a million unused sandbags left over from this years flood fight. The plan is to store them in a warehouse for the next flood. So some of the sandbag art could show up in sandbag lines during the next flood too.
For years, local officials have scratched their heads over a Federal Emergency Management Agency rule that prohibits building a permanent flood dike on property where FEMA money is spent to buy a flood-prone home.
Republican U.S. Sen. John Hoeven of North Dakota wants to change that.
The rule means that if a city buys a home and demolishes it, a temporary levee would need to be built on that empty lot every time there's a flood. The temporary levee must be removed after the flood. That means the federal government or the city pays for the same levee over and over instead of once.
I asked FEMA Director about the issue last year when he visited Moorhead during the flood. He said the rules were set by Congress. The idea was that if federal dollars are spent to remove property from a flood plain, no one should be allowed to build on that lot again. But the rule also precludes building permanent levees on the the property.
Hoeven said because FEMA can't change the rule through administrative processes, he'll introduce legislation to give FEMA authority to change the rule.
For a comprehensive and timely look at flood-related news from Minnesota and around the region, visit the MPR News flood blog Minnesota Floods '11.(1 Comments)
Posted at 11:15 AM on April 5, 2011
by Dan Gunderson
Filed under: Flooding
A familiar face at Fargo flood briefings is receiving national recognition for his disaster-related mental health work.
Dr. Andy McLean, is the medical director of Southeast Human Service Center in Fargo, a branch of the North Dakota Department of Human Services. He's been awarded the American Psychiatric Association Bruno Lima award for 2011.
The award recognizes outstanding contributions to the care and understanding of the victims of disasters.
McLean is one of two award winners nationwide. For the past couple of years, he has sat in on the daily Fargo flood briefings, during which he offers advice -- generally with a humorous anecdote.
At a flood briefing last week, he talked about the importance of planning for a possible evacuation.
"I learned preparation from my mom," McLean said. "Her winter survival kit was a big box of grape nuts -- either for traction or delicious snacks."
McLean said people in Fargo tend to be a stoic bunch, but humor is important in stressful situations.
He said city leaders learned during the record flood of 2009 that employees needed to find ways to reduce stress because physically and emotionally stressed employees are less efficient. That's part of the reason McLean has a seat at the flood briefing table with engineers and other flood fighters.
McLean has personal experience with floods and stress. He lives not far from the Red River, and in 2009 his house was on the wrong side of an emergency levee.
For a comprehensive and timely look at flood-related news from Minnesota and around the region, visit the MPR News flood blog Minnesota Floods '11.
As the Fargo-Moorhead community faces its third major flood in a row, researchers are studying how people there cope so well with repeated disasters.
Local researchers are teaming up with the Terrorism and Disaster Center at the University of Oklahoma to study community resilience.
Fargo psychologist Kit O' Neill is one of the researchers. She's part of a local group called Red River Resilience that formed after the record 2009 flood. She said national disaster organizations like FEMA and the Red Cross have noticed how well Fargo-Moorhead residents bounce back from disasters. They're interested in learning more about why some communities are more resilient after disasters.
"We're hoping we can not only advance the science but be in the forefront of developing resilience as a model community for the United States," O'Neill said.
The study will start in the next week or two as researchers identify 1,000 flood volunteers who will fill out a detailed survey.
The plan is to have those same people fill out another survey after this years flood.
"That would definitely contribute an important aspect to the literature to date," O'Neill said. "Not many communities have an opportunity to do a before and after look at community resilience."
The science of community resilience is relatively new.
Researchers think strong community involvement, strong civic leadership, good communication and social support networks are key factors in how a community responds to disaster.
While the survey will follow 1,000 Fargo-Moorhead residents, O'Neill said other researchers are examining civic leadership and communication during the flood. It will take about a year to gather and analyze the data.
"We can't assume what makes one community resilient is exactly the same as another community but we do believe there are common factors that will operate across the continuum and those are the factors we're trying to identify," she said.
The rivers are rising in Minnesota, and the experts have been handing out plenty of advice on what you should do to get ready. But even if you're not close to a river, some of their advice could be helpful this spring or at some other point in the future.
Protecting your home or business
Most homes have sump pumps and now is a good time to check and make sure they're working right. Some owners buy a backup pump, to build in a little redundancy should the main one go out. Some home and business owners find warning systems handy as they sound an alarm when water starts flowing into a basement.
Beyond that, there are things you can do to prevent sewage backup, another real flood headache. It may be too late for this spring, but you can have a check valve installed on your main sewer line to prevent sewage from backing up into the basement. That could cost about $500 to install, depending on how much soil you have to move. There are also plugs available to seal drain openings.
For homeowners facing the potential of actual river flooding, beyond sandbagging, the experts say the basement walls should be a major consideration. If you're certain they're been reinforced and braced, and if the water just laps at your foundation, you may be able to keep the basement mostly dry with pumps. But if those walls are not reinforced, experts say you probably should let the basement fill with water to equalize the pressure on the walls.
Another priority is to move documents and other valuables to the highest possible point in the house -- or move them out of the structure entirely to a safe location. This may go double for businesses, make sure computer and paper records are secure.
If you have to evacuate your house, have the gas, electricity and water shutoff before you leave. When you return, have professionals re-start those utilities for safety.
On the farm
Farmers probably are more on their own than city residents. And even though they're used to coping with all sorts of situations, the high water will test them too.
Farmers with livestock should make plans about how they'll care for those animals if they face severe flooding.They have to make sure there's enough feed and clean water available. Roads are also a problem. Dairy farmers need to truck milk off their farms on a regular basis, so if high water cuts off access they have a real problem and may have to make alternative plans.
Anyone owning water wells also should be careful. Even if you seal the well, disinfect it after the high water passes and have the water tested before you drink it. Septic systems should also be sealed if possible, but make sure the tank is half full so it doesn't collapse or float away during high water.
The experts also advise home and business owners to take steps to limit pollution if they're flooded. Fuel tanks should be tied down and sealed. Some owners empty their tanks in advance to limit pollution if they're flooded.
Paints, solvents and other types of harmful chemical containers should be moved to higher ground. Farmers who have to regularly move manure onto their fields should plan ahead and spread it only on their high ground, or arrange to stockpile it in a safe location until the flood threat is over.
Remember the dog
And lastly, don't forget about pets. They may need to be moved ahead of time to a safe location.
Posted at 6:00 AM on February 10, 2011
by Dan Gunderson
Filed under: Flooding
The business of flooding was on display in Fargo Wednesday. One vendor promised their device will fill sandbags 500 percent faster. Another, the Pro-Bagger claims it "nearly eliminates the back aches and drudgery" of sandbagging.
The Flood Fair has become an annual event in Fargo as floods become a yearly event.
It's likely to cost tens of millions of dollars to fight floods this year across the region. Most of the money is expected to be spent on sandbags and heavy equipment to build earthen levees. Those are still the most economical reliable emergency flood protection in most cases.
But some new tools have caught on. People I talked with are looking for items that will allow them to save time, something that's critical when the water is rising.
The Hesco Concertainer was originally designed to be used in war zones to quickly build blast walls to protect soldiers. It can be quickly set up and filled with sand using a loader.
But is also found a use as a flood fighting tool during Hurricane Katrina.
Fargo used several miles of the barriers in 2009 when city officials were scrambling to find flood barriers they could deploy more quickly than sandbags.
These units can't replace sandbags, because engineers say they only work well on a flat surface, and that rules out most backyards along rivers.
But they are one of the newer flood-fighting tools that have caught on. Manitoba ordered about 25 miles of the 15 foot long units this year. Many communities in Minnesota and North Dakota will also likely deploy them this year.
Also on display were the basics. Emergency generators to run pumps if the power goes out. Big racks of emergency lights so levee construction can continue around the clock. Massive pumps to move water, and tractor trailers used to haul clay for building levees.
Another new device that saw limited use in Fargo-Moorhead the past couple of years is a system of huge plastic tubes that are filled with water to create a dam three or four feet high and hundreds of feet long. They can be set up quickly but can be costly. Still, they could catch on with homeowners looking for an easier way to fight floods than stacking thousands of 30 pound sandbags.
Millions of sandbags could be used across the region this year. One supplier says he doubts there will be any shortages, but they could get more expensive closer to the flood event. It seems the bags imported from Asia are cheaper than bags made in the United States. But it takes several weeks for a shipment of bags to come across the ocean on a container ship. So people who don't order early might end up paying more.