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Kevin Bonham, Forum News Service, Published April 29 2013

Rising Forest River closes highway, surprises Minto residents

MINTO, N.D. — Chris Lizakowski used a Honda Rincon 4-wheeler Monday afternoon to pull a canoe up U.S. Highway 81 to get his cousin, Tisha Denault, and her 1-year-old daughter, Keysha, out of the rising water.

“That was a little scary,” Tisha said as she reached dry pavement, where her mother, Camille Bass awaited.

They were among scores of residents who scrambled Monday to sandbag a few homes that sit near the banks of the Forest River, which spilled out of its banks late Monday morning.

The river, which normally doesn’t flood the highway until it reaches 8 feet, rose more than 3 feet in 22 hours, reaching 8 feet by 5 p.m. Monday.

The National Weather Service predicted the river would crest at about 8.5 feet, perhaps today. The record flood is 11.8 feet, set in 1948.

The third-highest crest was 9.27 feet in 2004, while it crested at 8.62 feet in 2010, the sixth-highest in history.

Even though the community had been prepared this year — some 4,000 sandbags had been stacked on pallets since Minto High School students helped to fill them late last week — this flood caught them a bit by surprise.

“It’s never come around by the backside like this before,” said Chris Misialek, who lives next door to the Lizakowskis.

Mayor Lane Kelly said the water backed up from the Harriet drain, which runs along the east side of this Walsh County community of 600, spilling onto streets east of Highway 81, which was closed shortly before noon.

Nicole Nielsen posted a message on her Facebook page for volunteers to help sandbag the home of her mother, Susan Kosobud.

“I’ve had some seepage before, but no water,” Kosobud said as pallets arrived.

Across the street, community volunteers helped to build a sandbag dike for the Thomas family just hours before visitation services for Bob Thomas, a retired Walsh County chief deputy sheriff who died last week. His funeral is Tuesday.

A couple of doors away, Mary Lizakowski watched as her son drove his 4-wheeler through the water, hauling some items, including an antique lawnmower, from a flooded shed to drier ground. Chris now owns the property.

“My husband and I moved here in 1968,” she said. “We’ve had water in the basement in 1979 and 2004. “It always goes up 81 and wraps around. This is different. And we’re running out of sandbags. It’s nerve-wracking.”

Just about then, another pallet of sandbags arrived.