The City of Fargo asks for hundreds of volunteers to make a million sandbags, in anticipation of spring flood – Valley News Live

The City of Fargo asks for hundreds of volunteers to make a million sandbags, in anticipation of spring flood - Valley News Live

Midwest Flooding: 2 Dead As Waters Breach Levees Along Missouri River

FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) – A state of emergency has been declared in the City of Fargo, in anticipation of spring flooding.

“The City of Fargo is in danger of suffering a substantial flood event,” Dr. Tim Mahoney, mayor of the City of Fargo, said Monday afternoon.

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Mahoney says he signed the declaration so the city could prepare financially for the springs upcoming flood.

Brandt, who has lived in Hamburg all her life, noted that the town withstood the 2011 Missouri River flood for months by piling extra dirt on top of the almost 2-mile-long levee on the west side of town. Locals wanted to keep the higher levee, but federal officials said they would have to make about $5.5 million in improvements. That was too costly, so the levee was lowered to its pre-flood height.

This would allow the city to receive some compensation for equipment from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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On Monday morning, staff met to discuss the citys preparations and potential responses at various flood levels. In addition to all Fargo City departments, the City of West Fargo, Cass County, Fargo Public Schools, North Dakota Air National Guard, FirstLink and the American Red Cross all sat in on the meeting.

The government made us tear the top off of the levee and bring it down to stump size, Brandt said. And so the waters rushing over the levee now. Whereas, if we had been able to keep that levee, we might have been able to keep our community dry, and we wouldnt lose businesses and property and crops. This is huge.

“North Fargo will be inconvenienced quite a bit, Mahoney said. And the crossover between Moorhead and Fargo will be inconvenienced, cuz were only down to two bridges, and then South Fargo will have trouble on 52nd.”

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Fargo city administrator, Bruce Grubb, says the city is planning for at least the 10 percent scenario—that says the river would reach 40.3 feet.

Waterways in eastern Nebraska — the Elkhorn, Loup and Platte Rivers — have begun dropping, but the situation remains dicey, said David Pearson, a hydrologist at the weather service. On Sunday, a levee on the Platte River near North Bend was breached, he said.

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On Friday, the flood outlook raised a couple feet—previously the worst-case scenario was looking to be around 39 feet. Now, theres a five percent chance itll get to 41.4 feet.

With a record in 2009 of just under 41 feet, the city says a lot of the work will require volunteers to operate the spiders: the machines making sandbags.

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“Were running sandbag central full blast, Mahoney said. We need 200 volunteers an hour basically. It takes about 80 to 100 to run each spider.

Fargo Sandbag Central will open on Tuesday, March 26 and will continue operations until the sandbag goal has been met. The goal is to make one million sandbags in about 10 days.

The Army Corps of Engineers on Sunday warned that some 210 miles of levees along the Missouri River between Offutt Air Force Base and Leavenworth, Kansas, have been compromised. That stretch touches Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri.

“I think its a great opportunity for a workout, and get out there and be with the public and have a great time, Mahoney said. Maybe we can get some competition in it.”

The large dam that feeds water into the Missouri River continues to lower its releases after peaking at 100,000 cubic feet a second last week. The dam is a pass-through point for water from the Niobrara River.

Mayor Mahoney says when it comes to community service, the City of Fargo usually exceeds his expectations.

The city says it will continue to get updates from the weather service twice a week to update on flood levels.

Rivers have reached historic levels in 41 locations across the Midwest, creating devastating flooding that has killed at least three people, forced countless evacuations, breached dams and levees, damaged hundreds of homes and flooded parts of a military base.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers told the Associated Press that 200 miles of levees have been topped or breached in Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and Kansas.

Sen. Sasse, Sen. Gragert, and I visited Niobrara for their community meeting today over the noon hour at the fire hall. There is unbelievable devastation that has wiped out everything from the Highway 12 bridge to the cafe. But their community spirit remains strong. pic.twitter.com/PXSZwZLFIb

The death toll from the flooding has risen to three. Two people from Columbus, Nebraska, died last week: a woman trapped in her home by floodwaters and a farmer attempting a rescue in high water, according to the Platte County Sheriff's Office. A Norfolk, Nebraska, man died and two others were injured when they drove around a flood barrier in Fremont County, Iowa, on Friday and were swept away, according to the Fremont County Sheriff's Office.

Visited Plattsmouth this morning for a briefing on Missouri River flooding in the area. Like so many others, this community is going through a lot. Their water treatment plant is under water with millions of dollars in damage.#NebraskaFlood | #NebraskaStrong pic.twitter.com/Bfb832QsFS

Vice President Mike Pence said he will travel to Nebraska on Tuesday to survey the damage and visit with local leaders.

The people of Fremont stepped up today in a major way to help protect their community. We will get through this together — neighbor helping neighbor. #NebraskaFlood | #NebraskaStrong pic.twitter.com/2DaPmMKpJL

The deaths add weight to the grim statistics in the ongoing flood disaster. On Sunday, the Sarpy County Nebraska Sheriff's office said that at least 500 homes were ruined by floodwaters that overtopped two levees in the county.

Shortly after noon Monday CDT, Atchison County Emergency Management urged residents of Watson, Missouri, to evacuate when the Missouri State Highway Patrol reported that water was washing over the Nishnabotna River and and High Creek levees. The county also said levees on the Missouri River west of Watson had two breaches.

Some of the worst flooding is receding Monday, but other areas, especially from Nebraska City, Nebraska, to St. Joseph, Missouri, will see river flooding continue this week.

Monday morning, Tom Bullock, Emergency Management director for Holt County, Missouri, said many homes there were filled with 6 to 7 feet of water. A levee south of Fortescue, Missouri, was overtopped about 7:30 Sunday night. Several other levees along the Missouri side of the river were breached, too.

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Interstate 29 was underwater in places and was closed from just south of Watson, Missouri, to Loveland, Nebraska.

In Joslin, Illinois, near Quad Cities, the Rock River is cresting below a record but will remain in the major flood stage for much of this week.

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The entire town of Pacific Junction, Iowa, was ordered to evacuate late Sunday because of two levee failures and a confirmed levee breach on the Missouri River, the Mills County Sheriff's Office reported. Gas and electricity were cut off to the town.

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Mayor Andy Young said most residents in the town of 480 don't have flood insurance. "We are going to have to rely on the federal government for assistance. Not sure what that will mean," Young told the Omaha World-Herald. "This is going to be tough, with all the damage to homes."

The body of 80-year-old Betty Hamernik was found in her home in rural Columbus, Nebraska, according to the Platte County Sheriffs Office.

On the other side of the river across from Pacific Junction, Offutt Air Force Base was restricted to "mission essential personnel" on Sunday after about a third of the base was cut off by rising floodwaters. Thirty buildings at the base south of Omaha have been inundated with as much as 8 feet of water, Tech. Sgt. Rachelle Blake, a 55th Wing spokeswoman, told the World-Herald.

An 80-year-old woman who was trapped in her home is the third fatality from historic floods overwhelming parts of the Midwest.

Nevertheless, normal personnel operations were expected to resume Tuesday, the base's Twitter account announced.

The Missouri River already crested upstream of Omaha, Nebraska, though hundreds of people remained out of their homes and water continued to pour through busted levees. Flooding was so bad around Fremont, Nebraska, that just one lane of U.S. 30 was uncovered outside the city of 26,000. State law enforcement limited traffic on that road to pre-approved trucks carrying gas, food, water and other essential supplies.

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Thurman, Iowa, began evacuations about 7:30 a.m. Sunday EDT as fast moving water approached the town in the southwest corner of the state. The National Weather Service said the flooding was likely the result of levee breaches on the Missouri River. Areas of other Iowa towns had already evacuated, including Hamburg, Percival, McPaul and Bartlett.

In southwest Iowa, the Missouri River reached a level in Fremont County that was 2 feet (0.6 meters) above a record set in 2011. The countys emergency management director, Mike Crecelius, said Monday that more water was flooding into low-lying parts of Hamburg, where a wall of sand-filled barriers was breached when one failed.

Shortly after 3 p.m. Sunday, water topped a levee west of Hamburg as residents filled sandbags to build a retaining wall.

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Seventy-year-old Lana Brandt has lived in Hamburg all her live. She said people from as far away as Omaha came to help with the sandbags.

In nearby Atchison County, about 130 people were urged to leave their homes as water levels rose and strained levees, three of which had already been overtopped by water. Missouri State Highway Patrol crews were on standby to rescue anyone who insisted on staying despite the danger.

Were an older community, so many of us cant do sandbags anymore, Brandt told the World-Herald. We count on people helping us.

Many homes in a mostly rural area of Missouris Holt County were inundated with 6 to 7 feet (1.8 to 2.1 meters) of water from the swollen Missouri River, said the countys emergency management director, Tom Bullock. He said his own home was on an island surrounded by floodwater.

We all take care of each other. We were all rubbing elbows, bagging sand together, helping each other out, said Taylor Parton, 67, who has lived in Hamburg for three years.

One couple was rescued in a helicopter after water from three breached levees swept across 40,000 acres (62.5 square miles), he said. Another nine breaches were confirmed in Nebraska and Iowa counties south of the Platte River, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

In St. Joseph, Missouri, where the river is expected to crest at 30.1 feet this week, city officials asked volunteers to help fill sandbags. The goal, city spokesperson Mary Robinson told WDAF-TV, was to have 150,000 sandbags by Tuesday to add a 2-foot wall to the levee.

Farther downstream, the Missouri is expected to crest above major flood stage in Atchison, Kansas, and just below that stage in Leavenworth, according to the National Weather Service. In Kansas City, where banks and levees are higher, its projected to crest at 32.4 feet, which is just above minor flood stage.

The National Weather Service said the river was expected to crest Thursday in St. Joseph, Missouri, at its third-highest level on record. Military C-130 planes were evacuated last week from nearby Rosecrans Air National Guard base.

Health officials in Missouri are warning that the floodwaters could contain untreated sewage and hazardous chemicals and debris.

It is vital that everyone working near floodwaters realizes the risks that exist, Randall Williams, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services director, told the Kansas City Star on Monday. Just as driving in moving or standing water is dangerous, wading in floodwaters or exposure while recovering from a flood can pose health risks.

Jud Kneuvean, the emergency manager with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Kansas City district, blamed a combination of higher temperature, rainfall and snowmelt “converging all at the same time.”

Douglas County West Community Schools in Valley, Nebraska, are closed for the week, the World-Herald reports. Many families in the district, which has about 980 students, have been evacuated from their homes, Superintendent Melissa Poloncic said.

Earlier in the weekend, flooding from the Elkhorn and Platte rivers turned Nebraska's sixth largest city into "an island." Fremont, Nebraska, which lies about 40 miles northwest of Omaha and is home to more than 26,000 residents, was cut off from the rest of the state Saturday when two levees were breached northwest of the city. Volunteers have spent much the weekend filling sandbags and lining them up to block water, the Fremont Tribune reported.

By Monday evening, Highway 36 into Fremont was reopened, giving residents a chance to return and survey the damage.

Volunteers also helped set up shelters; Spanish teachers translated for those who didn't speak English, and cooks at the Hy-Vee grocery store worked with the American Red Cross to feed stranded people, the Omaha World-Herald reported. A pilot from Lincoln, Nebraska, landed at Freemont's airport to give three meat cutters at the WholeStone Farms plant a lift home, where they each had children waiting.

The rising Missouri River in the town of Brownville, Nebraska, meant officials were prepared to shut down the Cooper Nuclear Power Station if needed, according to a press release.

Mike Wight, public information officer for the Nebraska Emergency Management Office, told weather.com there is "concern" for the nuclear plant but emphasized that it "is perfectly safe."

"We don't expect any safety issues but we do expect they will get flooding around them and if it gets too far they will shut it down," Wight said, adding that it will not be an "issue with power supply" because they can get power from other sources within the grid.

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On Monday, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it has inspectors at the plant and it continues to operate at full power.

On Saturday, Black Hawk helicopters were dropping 1.5-ton sandbags to protect wells that serve the city of Lincoln, home to more than 284,000 people. The wells are located on an island in the rising Platte River.

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After surveying the extensive flooding from the air, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said in a Friday press conference that it was the "most widespread flooding damage we've had in the last half-century."

"Even when we were away from the water system, we saw that the fields were very saturated," he added.

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The U.S. Coast Guard closed all traffic Friday on a 70-mile stretch of the Missouri River from 50 miles south of Omaha, Nebraska, to St. Joseph, Missouri.

And in Freeport, Illinois, the town's 25,000 residents were preparing for what could be the worst flooding in 50 years. If the worst-case scenario occurs, the Pecatonica River will swell to the highest level ever recorded, Freeport City Manager Lowell Crow told the AP.

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A Nebraska farmer identified as James Wilke, 50, was killed Thursday after the tractor he was using to attempt to rescue a stranded motorist was carried away by floodwaters, the Omaha World-Herald reported. The incident occurred at Shell Creek near Columbus in eastern Nebraska.

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Betty Hamernik, 80, also of rural Columbus, died after rescuers weren't unable to reach her home where she was trapped Thursday because of fast current, high waves and gusting winds, according to released information from the Platte County Sheriff's Office. An Air National Guard helicopter also was unable to save her. The next day, a rescue crew found her body in the home, but they were unable to remove it. A sheriffs office dive team retrieved her body on Saturday.

A 55-year-old Nebraska man died Friday night after being trapped by flooding in Riverton, Iowa, the Des Moines Register reported. Aleido Rojas Galan of Norfolk, Nebraska, and two other men were in a car that was swept away by floodwaters. All three were rescued, but Galan died on his way to the hospital, the Fremont County Sheriff's office said. The other two men were recovering in an Omaha hospital.

Also in Nebraska, two other men are missing and presumed dead. Scott E. Goodman, 30, of Norfolk was seen at 4 a.m. Thursday on top of his car near a levee that failed. It was reported that he was later seen being carried away by a surge of water, according to the Norfolk Daily News.

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A second, unidentified man might have been swept away Thursday when the Spencer Dam collapsed on the Niobrara River.

When the dam failed, it caused a large ice floe to jam a hole in a small electrical plant, where employees were working. No other injuries were reported. The failure also forced the evacuation of dozens of residents along the river.

Chunks of ice from the Niobrara, some up to 2 feet thick, crashed into a gas station, a storage facility and a garage in the town of Niobrara, Nebraska, the World-Herald reported. The ice was left in piles 6 to 10 feet high around town.

Its total devastation. The ice just destroyed everything, said Laura Sucha, who lost the Country Cafe restaurant she has owned since 2015.

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Also along the Niobrara, the three bridges that connected Boyd County to the rest of Nebraska were closed. The bridges south of Butte and Spencer were closed because of the flooding, and the so-called Mormon bridge in Niobrara washed away.

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So far, 41 locations in six states across the Midwest have set new flood crests, said weather.com senior meteorologist Jon Erdman, noting that the flooding that is a result of recent heavy rains and snowmelt will continue into the week.


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