Gov. John Hoeven declared a statewide emergency in response to recent severe storms in North Dakota, while victims of flash flooding in LaMoure and Dickey counties began cleaning up and assessing damage.
State emergency management officials said the emergency declaration expands state assistance to local areas. It also is the first step toward obtaining a presidential disaster declaration, which would open the way for federal assistance.
“Repetitive storm activity is posing a serious threat to our communities, forcing evacuations in some instances and threatening the integrity of sewage and water systems, as well as our roadways and bridges,” Hoeven said.
About 30 families in that community were temporarily evacuated early last Wednesday morning because of flash flooding.
Jeff Brandenburg, one of those who suffered water damage to his house, said residents were working hard to clean up their properties and search for ways to pay for repairs.
“That’s about all you can do,” he said. “There’s a lot of depressed people.”
Susan Reinertson, director of the state Division of Homeland Security, said the state is working with local officials and volunteer agencies in areas hit by storms.
Hoeven said Devils Lake floodwaters continue to pose a threat. Farmers in some eastern North Dakota counties have been unable to plant much of their bean crop, and might lose small grain crops to standing water.
The latest storms hit southeastern North Dakota’s LaMoure and Dickey counties this week, dropping up to 7 inches of rain within half an hour in some areas.
In Dickey County, the State Water Commission declared the Pheasant Lake Dam stable around 7 a.m. last Thursday, said Jeff Langley, a spokesman for the county.
The heavy rains swelled the reservoir on the Elm River west of Ellendale and put pressure on the earthen dam. Thousands of sandbags were placed around some 30 area homes Wednesday as a precaution.
Langley said the lake receded last Thursday morning, ending the threat, though officials were assessing damage to a system of road dikes north of the lake in anticipation of more rain this weekend. The National Weather Service forecast rainfall amounts of an inch or less.
The county did not immediately lift its state of emergency Thursday because the Maple River to the east of Ellendale had risen late Wednesday night and caused road flooding.
Langley said the 85 residents of Fullerton had problems getting in and out of town on Wednesday night, but the problem had eased Thursday morning.
“The water is heading south to (South Dakota’s) Brown County,” he said. “We’re advising them of the situation.”
A flood warning remained in effect Thursday for the Ludden Dam on the James River in Dickey County, with minor flooding forecast, the weather service said.
In LaMoure County, residents of Edgeley were cleaning up and calculating their losses from a 4-foot-high wall of water that rushed through town early Wednesday morning, swamping roads, lawns, the city swimming pool and home basements and damaging a bridge on a city street. The bridge remained closed on Thursday.
City Auditor Joe Neis said 36 homes and two businesses were damaged. Some of the homes had foundation walls collapse.
Rain runoff flowed from farm fields west of the town of 650 people, into creeks that run through the community. Neis said the flooding might have been compounded by corn stalks and other debris that piled up along a fence west of town.
“The stalks trapped along the fence created a dam effect, and then the fence folded over,” he said.
Neis said he would not be surprised if the total damage surpassed $500,000. He said homeowners did not have flood insurance because they did not think they could get a policy. Neis was trying to sort out the confusion.
“Evidently … between the federal level and the insurance industry there’s been some kind of error on (flood insurance) availability,” he said. “It’s kind of a poor time to find out.”
Neis said maps show 72 people living in the flood zone. Residents displaced from their homes Wednesday had found a place to stay, Neis said. No one was hurt in the flooding.
The city brought in large containers for people to throw away damaged furniture and carpet, Neis said. City workers were draining the pool and preparing to clean and refill it, while fire department crews from Edgeley and the nearby town of LaMoure were preparing to clean streets.
“I’ve never seen anything close to this,” said Neis, who has lived in Edgeley for 45 years.
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