Monday, March 30, 2009

Floods, ice jams, blizzards strike the Great Plains

Environment News Service: The North Dakota National Guard Sunday airlifted giant one-ton sandbags to block the water rushing through a major breach in the Fargo city flood protection system. A Black Hawk helicopter from the North Dakota National Guard lifted the enormous reinforced plastic bags of sand and clay dirt, each weighing a ton, and carried them to the site of Fargo's Oak Grove Lutheran School and lowered them to bolster the weakening levee there.

Only hours earlier, while most of the city slept, a leak in the dike was discovered at Oak Grove, and two of the school's five buildings had taken water," says Sgt. 1st Class David Dodds. About 60 members of the National Guard's Quick Reaction Force and emergency crews from the city responded to the breach, holding back as much of the Red River as they could.

After the breach was stabilized, the giant sandbags were airlifted using cables and hoists suspended from the choppers. Eleven bags, from one of three prepositioned locations in Fargo, were transferred to the Oak Grove site. The reinforced plastic material used for the giant sandbags typically is used for holding agricultural products, such as soybeans, as they are lifted onto railcars or semi-trailer trucks. The levee is now stabilized and a secondary dike is holding. No evacuations were required.

…Ice is jamming up on rivers large and small across North Dakota. To get advice, on March 24, Governor John Hoeven sent a National Guard jet to Omaha, Nebraska to pick up Roger Kay, an Army Corps of Engineers expert with two decades of experience fighting ice jams.
After evaluating the ice formations on the Missouri River, Kay said the one south of Bismarck that backed up Missouri River water into neighborhoods last week was moderate in size but "very severe" in terms of impact....

The Red River of the North drainage basin, with the Red River highlighted. Karl Musser created the map based on USGS and Digital Chart of the World data. Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 2.5 License

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