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Published April 15, 2009, 12:00 AM

Evacuation will help Valley City beat flood

Mayor asks about half of population to leave
VALLEY CITY, N.D. – Officials here say they can beat record flooding of the Sheyenne River if about half of the city’s residents evacuate by 6 p.m. today.

By: Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, INFORUM

Mayor asks about half of population to leave

VALLEY CITY, N.D. – Officials here say they can beat record flooding of the Sheyenne River if about half of the city’s residents evacuate by 6 p.m. today.

Mayor Mary Lee Nielson asked that all vulnerable populations – children, the elderly and those with physical and mental disabilities – and anyone else living in the city’s flood plain comply with a voluntary evacuation advisory.

That will speed up the response time in the event of a catastrophic dike failure, and will relieve pressure from the city’s water and sewer systems.

“I am asking you to leave because your absence will allow us to focus all available resources on fighting the flood,” Nielson said Tuesday morning during a news conference.

Hours later, the National Weather Service lowered the crest prediction from 22 feet to 21.5 feet. Nielson said that would not change the evacuation plans. The river is expected to crest Saturday.

It’s unknown how many residents the evacuation will affect, but it covers about half of this city of 6,800 people, she said. The evacuation could last for two weeks because the Sheyenne is expected to stay high.

Another 250 North Dakota National Guard members arrived in Valley City on Tuesday afternoon to assist with the evacuation, in addition to patrolling dikes and directing traffic. About 200 Guard members were already in town and will stay as long as needed, Maj. Deb Lien said.

Senior citizens are being encouraged to stay with family, said Pat Hansen, executive director of South Central Adult Services.

“To put them in a shelter on cots for that long would be very difficult,” Hansen said.

Residents of three group homes owned by the Open Door Center are staying with family or being moved to other facilities, said administrator Mary Simonson.

Mercy Hospital is in the flood plain, but will remain open on an outpatient and emergency basis. The hospital is protected by a clay ring dike.

Valley City State University and Valley City public schools already canceled classes for the week.

About half of the buildings at VCSU are in the flood plain.

President Steve Shirley said it’s unlikely classes could be held on campus for the next two weeks, but faculty are working to continue their courses online. An announcement about how the university will proceed will be made today.

Of the 280 VCSU students who live on campus, only about 12 to 15 remain in residence halls because most had left for Easter, Shirley said. They will stay in a residence hall that is on high ground.

Volunteers scrambled Tuesday afternoon to move about 30,000 volumes from the basement of VCSU’s library to upper floors. The materials include 100-year-old university archives, rare books and newspapers on microfilm.

“It’s really sad, we can’t let it get lost,” said Library Director Donna James.

North Dakota State University football players arrived to help, forming an assembly line similar to a sandbag line.

In Barnes County, flooding continued washing out roads Tuesday, severely limiting residents’ access.

Emergency Manager Kim Franklin said she planned to ask the National Guard to determine if it would be feasible to install two floating bridges across the Sheyenne, one north and one south of the city.

The Red Cross shelter was moved from the Eagles Club to the Oriska, N.D., school to relieve pressure on the city’s sewer system.

Only essential businesses are to be open in Valley City, and Police Chief Dean Ross asked that all nonessential travel in the city cease.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590

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