Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Grand Forks Empties out as Red River Rushes In

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Grand Forks Empties out as Red River Rushes In

Article excerpt

Most of the city's 50,000 residents fled Saturday when the rising Red River overran miles of hastily built sandbag dikes and sent cold, dirty water washing through their neighborhoods.

Mayor Pat Owens said people should prepare to be gone for as long as two weeks.

More than a third of Grand Forks, a city of 10 1/2 square miles, was covered with water. Police Lt. Byron Sieber said he expected most of the city to be flooded. "The entire downtown area is inundated," he said. "We kind of laid out grids on the city as what we see as particular neighborhoods, and we're seeing those go down one by one. There are a few high areas, but they're rare." Emergency shelters in the city were closed down, and people were evacuated to Grand Forks Air Force Base 10 miles west of the city. Other shelters were readied at three colleges in eastern North Dakota, the closest of which was 35 miles to the south. Long lines of traffic headed west out of the city. The Red River stood at 53 feet at midday Saturday. The National Weather Service said little change was expected over the next few days. An additional rise of more than 3 inches was possible, the service said, although the breaks in the dikes had made that largely academic. Flood stage is 28 feet. Police said the water that swirled hip-deep around downtown buildings Saturday could linger for more than five days in this tabletop-flat Red River Valley. The river's rise overwhelmed weeks of backbreaking work. Dikes built of clay and sandbags, in anticipation of the melt of a record winter snowfall that also flooded other wide areas of Minnesota and North Dakota, were washed away in hours. Across the Red River, East Grand Forks, Minn., also went under Saturday. At least 3,000 of its 8,500 people were trapped, and National Guard helicopters and boats were evacuating the people, Mayor Lynn Stauss t said. Water lapped over the bridge linking the two communities, and the span was closed. In Grand Forks, Doug Churchill, who left his home early Saturday, said, "It's probably five feet deep now outside my house. At 1 o'clock the clay dike was breaking and the National Guard said, `You're outta here. …

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