Evacuation sirens sound as river tops levees

Sirens wailed across Minot Wednesday as the swollen Souris River overtopped levees five hours ahead of a looming evacuation deadline, setting in motion what is expected to be the worst flooding to hit the North Dakota city in four decades.

The Souris River passes near a home Tuesday in Minot

The Souris River passes near a home Tuesday in Minot

MINOT, N.D. — Sirens wailed across Minot Wednesday as the swollen Souris River overtopped levees five hours ahead of a looming evacuation deadline, setting in motion what is expected to be the worst flooding to hit the North Dakota city in four decades.

The warning was followed by an announcement saying, “All residents must evacuate, Zones 1 through 9,” prompting the last of nearly 11,000 Minot residents to leave their homes for a second time in a month.

Robyn Whitlow, 27, who was helping some residents move the last of their belongings, burst into tears when the sirens sounded at 12:57 p.m.

“I feel so bad for everybody,” said Whitlow, a Minot resident who lives outside the evacuation zone.

The Souris River, which loops down from Canada through north central North Dakota, has been bloated by heavy spring snowmelt and rain on both sides of the border.

The resulting deluge is expected to dwarf a historic flood of 1969, when the Souris reached 1,555.4 feet above sea level. The river is expected to hit nearly 1,563 feet this weekend — eventually topping the historical record of 1,558 feet set in 1881.

Minot Mayor Curt Zimbelman warned Wednesday morning that the river would top the levees earlier than expected and said residents still moving their belongings from the evacuation zone should “do their last-minute thing and be prepared to move quickly.”

The National Weather Service in Bismarck also issued a flash-flood warning along the Souris River from Burlington through Minot and Logan to Sawyer.

Before the sirens sounded, Laura Nessler, a 50-year-old nurse, watched the water lap against a bridge on Broadway, the main north-south thoroughfare through Minot. The road was bumper-to-bumper with furniture-loaded pickup trucks and cars pulling U-Hauls trying to get out of town.

Nessler pointed to a side street that had become inundated in the hour since she arrived.

“That didn’t have any water when I got here, and now it’s filling up,” Nessler said.

Ashley Getchell, 25, was snapping some photos at Broadway Bridge to document the flood for her 1 1/2- and 3-year-old kids and because she “has no place else to go.”

The stay-at-home mom had moved most of her belongings from her home at Holiday Village Trailer Park to a friend’s house, but she didn’t have enough time rescue anything else.

“I’m going to be losing my house,” she said. “I guess if anybody needed a reason to start over, this is it.”

The mayor said the city has just been buying time, and he urged people to be safe as they leave.

“Be cautious and be courteous, I guess,” he told KXMC. “Everybody’s trying to do the same thing. If we work together, the result’s probably going to be the best.”

Further north near the U.S.-Canada border, a rapid rise of nearly four feet was observed on the Souris River in the Sherwood area, the National Weather Service late Wednesday morning. The area is the first point in North Dakota where water released from Canadian dams is observed.

The weather service said flash flooding was expected in mainly rural areas of northwest Renville County, along with the hamlet of Greene. Renville County Emergency Manager Kristy Titus ordered a mandatory evacuation of Mouse River Park.

About 10,000 Minot residents were evacuated earlier this month before the river hit 1,554.1 feet. They were later allowed to return to their homes, but told to be ready to leave again quickly.

Nearly 500 North Dakota National Guard soldiers were in Minot to provide traffic control, ensure people were leaving left their homes and secure neighbourhoods.

Guard commander Dave Sprynczynatyk said he expected the impact of the impending flood among the worst he has seen in his 40-year career.

“What I see right now is probably the most devastating in terms of the number of people directly impacted and what will likely be the damage to homes as the water begins to overtop the levees and fill in behind,” he said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The UCP government has turned down a request from the opposition to discuss a bill intended to protect the Rocky Mountains in the legislature. (CP file photo).
Consultations on coal mining don’t go far enough: NDP

Coal mining in the Rockies has not sat well with many Albertans… Continue reading

The future of Westerner Park continues to be plagued by many unknowns, including when city council will make a decision about financing its operations. (File photo by Advocate staff).
Red Deer city council delays making decision on Westerner Park financing

It will mean missing the next opportunity to apply for a provincial loan

Nineteen-year-old Amanda enjoys a ride during a visit to Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler. photo submitted
Busy days at Spirit’s Respite Ranch near Stettler

The ranch, which launched operations last summer, provides support through animal interaction

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer at the announcement that the city will be getting a drug treatment court Thursday. Jason Luan, associate minister of mental health and addictions, looks on.
Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Veer concerned about rising COVID-19 cases in Red Deer

The City of Red Deer is reminding citizens to protect themselves against… Continue reading

Rode
Volunteering played major role in RDC awards

Under normal circumstances, the RDC Red Deer Bottling Athlete of the Year… Continue reading

Curtis Labelle (second from left) and his band are planning a cross-Canada tour in 2022. Meanwhile, Labelle is continuing to host his weekly livestreamed talk show, Chattin 88. (Contributed photo).
Red Deer rock pianist takes on a talk show role

Curtis Labelle’s Chattin 88 gets views from around the globe

LtE bug
Letter: Questions around city funding for Westerner

The Advocate article on April 21 on page 3 “Council to discuss… Continue reading

Toronto Maple Leafs' Nick Foligno (71) and Mitchell Marner (16) celebrate Marner's goal on Winnipeg Jets goaltender Laurent Brossoit (30) during second-period NHL action in Winnipeg on Thursday, April 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/John Woods
Leafs end five-game winless skid with 5-3 win over Jets in North Division battle

Leafs end five-game winless skid with 5-3 win over Jets in North Division battle

Taylor Pendrith from Richmond Hill, Ont. salutes the crowd after sinking a birdie on the 18th hole to come in at five under par during first round of play at the Canadian Open golf championship Thursday, July 24, 2014 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
PGA Tour Canada splits into Canadian, American circuits for 20201

PGA Tour Canada splits into Canadian, American circuits for 20201

Like father, like son: Floreal emerges as one of Canada’s top sprinters

Like father, like son: Floreal emerges as one of Canada’s top sprinters

Toronto Blue Jays center fielder George Springer (4) walks on the field during a team workout, Wednesday, March 31, 2021, at Yankee Stadium in New York. The Blue Jays face the New York Yankees on opening day Thursday in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
Injured Jays OF Springer to play in intrasquad game Friday

Injured Jays OF Springer to play in intrasquad game Friday

Toronto Raptors' Khem Birch (24) defends against Brooklyn Nets' Blake Griffin during the second half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, April 21, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
Raptors ride strong 3rd quarter to 114-103 win over Nets

Raptors ride strong 3rd quarter to 114-103 win over Nets

Team Canada's Jocelyne Larocque celebrates her goal past the U.S.A. with goaltender Embrace Maschmeyer during first period of Women's Rivalry Series hockey action in Vancouver, Wednesday, February 5, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Stunned Canadian players head home after women’s world hockey cancellation

Stunned Canadian players head home after women’s world hockey cancellation

Health Minister Patty Hajdu is shown at a COVID-19 press conference in Ottawa on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Kawai
Health Canada proposes new restrictions on talc in some personal care products

Health Canada proposes new restrictions on talc in some personal care products

Most Read