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By Kevin Bonham, Published March 26 2009

FLOOD UPDATE: Record crest expected at Hillsboro, N.D.

HILLSBORO, N.D. - The National Weather Service increased its crest prediction for the Goose River in rural Hillsboro by about a foot Wednesday. The record is 16.8 feet, set in 1979.

The new crest prediction is prompting local flood officials to call for volunteer sandbagging along the river and in Caledonia, N.D., near the confluence of the Goose and the Red rivers.

Sandbagging will begin today. Volunteers are being asked to call (701) 636-5476 to register, and then meet at the Hillsboro Fire Hall at 8 a.m., where they will be directed sandbagging operations.

“We’re optimistic,” said Capt. Steve Hunt, a Traill County deputy sheriff and the county’s deputy emergency manager.

Hillsboro officials had planned to use sandbags to protect the outdoor pool in the Hillsboro City Park. But with the higher crest prediction, they decided to let the pool go and concentrate on other areas, Hunt said.

Meanwhile, the flood threat has subsided in nearby Mayville, N.D.

“Hopefully, Mayville is starting to level off, but water is starting to come up in Hillsboro,” he said.

Three businesses and four residences were damaged Tuesday in Mayville, as the Goose River rose faster than local volunteers could provide temporary protection.

“It just came up that quick,” he said. “They were sandbagging but couldn’t keep up.”

Mayville Plumbing and Heating, Kost Hydroponics and the Pizza Shop took on water, Hunt said.

Mayville’s water plant also shut down for most of Tuesday. While Mayville did not run out of water, the water tower was drawn down to about half full.

Crews worked Wednesday to make sure the city continues to have water, Hunt said.

A no-travel advisory remains in effect in Traill County, except for emergencies or helping with the flood fight.

“We still have roads under water, and it’s not safe out there,” Hunt said.

Walsh County

Meanwhile, the Park River at Grafton, N.D., continued to fall, after peaking at 14.83 feet at about 7 p.m. Tuesday. The level was at 13.79 feet at 3 p.m. Wednesday. Flood stage is 12 feet.

“Things are going pretty good right now,” City Administrator Mylo Einarson said Wednesday afternoon. “It appears that we’ve crested, at least for this time. The longer the cold weather stays, the better it will be to allow water in the river to move through.”

Volunteers are on dike patrols around the clock, watching for trouble spots. The city appears to have enough volunteers for the time being.

“The volunteers have been great,” Einarson said.

There were some tense moments late Tuesday, as more than 150 sandbaggers responded to an urgent call. They managed to keep the Park River at bay in the northeast part of town, where the trouble began.

“They came from all over, in town, out of town, schoolchildren, older people,” Mayor Todd Burianek said.

The area of trouble late Tuesday was one that hasn’t seen flooding in the past, even in 1997, local officials said. An ice jam caused the problem.

Elsewhere in Walsh County, the Forest River at Minto, N.D., continued to drop Wednesday.

The south end of the city flooded early Tuesday, when the Forest River overflowed its banks, forcing the closure of U.S. Highway 81.

One lift station on the south end of Minto was out this morning, Walsh County Emergency Manager Brent Nelson said.

“Rural tributaries have slowed down and dropped a bit,” Nelson said. “It’s given us some time to catch our breath and plan what we need to do next.”

A no-travel advisory remains in effect throughout the county, and Nelson warns those who do drive not to ignore road closed signs, even if water appears to have receded from roads.

“We might have some washouts on some of the roads, and you may not be able to see them under ice,” he said.

Walsh County officials expect to be shifting some of their flood-fighting focus from Grafton and Minto to rural areas along the Red River, where water is expected to start spreading overland in the next day or two.

Sand and sandbags have been distributed to rural farmsteads, most of which have ring dikes in place, Nelson said.

Pembina County

Residents in Drayton, N.D., are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers — perhaps today — to begin raising the town’s earthen dike.

“They’re placing sandbags where they need them and waiting for the Corps to get here,” Pembina County Emergency Manager Jill Pedersen said Wednesday.

The National Weather Service has issued a flood warning for moderate to major flooding. The river is forecast to reach major flood stage of 42 feet by late Monday and to crest at about 43.3 feet by next Tuesday or Wednesday. The record crest is 45.55 feet in 1997.

The river reached 30.84 feet at 5 p.m. Wednesday.

Much of the county was hit by the winter like storm overnight that delivered rain and snow. One report from Joliette Township, north of Drayton along the Red River, indicated about 1 inch of precipitation — 0.4 inches of rain and 0.6 inches of moisture in the snow that fell.

“It’s been quiet,” Pedersen said. “We’re just preparing for what’s going to happen after the snow.”

Officials in Drayton have requested three water pumps, one for use in the city and the others to prevent the possibility of overland flooding coming across Interstate 29 from the west, Pedersen said.

City officials in Pembina and Hamilton also are requesting water pumps.

Pembina, Neche and Cavalier have been hit with temporary electrical power outages during the past couple of days, Pedersen said.

“We’re dealing with slippery roads and high winds,” she said, “hoping we don’t lose power.”

The Pembina River rose to 17.84 feet in Neche by 5 p.m. Wednesday. Flood stage is 18 feet.

The National Weather Service has forecast a 19-foot crest, possibly by today. That would result in moderate flooding, including some in residential areas.

The Red River at Pembina reached 38.53 feet at 1 p.m. Wednesday. It is forecast to crest at 50.2 feet by Tuesday or Wednesday. The record crest is 54.94 feet in 1997.

The Grand Forks Herald and The Forum are both owned by Forum Communications Co.