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Town a 'roaring mess': Edgeley works to recover from flooding

EDGELEY, N.D. - Flood-stricken residents here surveyed broken basement walls and scooped cornstalks from their yards Wednesday after a night of torrential rains turned a creek into a temporary river.

EDGELEY, N.D. - Flood-stricken residents here surveyed broken basement walls and scooped cornstalks from their yards Wednesday after a night of torrential rains turned a creek into a temporary river.

"I lived here for 18 years and there was nothing even close to this," said Dale Denning of Bismarck, who owns a house in Edgeley that he planned to sell to his renters.

A chunk of the basement wall on the south side of the house caved in, and the basement filled with murky water. The air smelled of spilled fuel oil.

"Now I don't know what will happen," said Denning, as he pumped water from his basement into the nearby creek.

The south-central North Dakota town of 650 people was slammed with 4 inches of rain in less than an hour overnight Tuesday, said Joe Neis, the city auditor and former mayor of 12 years.

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Firefighters evacuated people from about 15 homes in the LaMoure County town, Neis said. About a dozen of them spent the remainder of the night in the city armory, North Dakota National Guard spokesman Rob Keller said. Others stayed with family or friends.

Water caused basement walls in four homes to cave in and filled the basements of at least four others. At least 20 homes had some sort of damage, Neis said.

A National Weather Service flood warning for LaMoure and Dickey counties was to continue until 7 a.m. today.

The Red River at Wahpeton is forecast to crest near 14 feet late Thursday or early Friday.

State officials made Edgeley their first stop on a tour to assess waterlogged southern North Dakota, including Wahpeton and Ellendale's swollen Pheasant Lake Dam.

"A lot of this is not necessarily river flooding," said Bill Goetz, Gov. John Hoeven's chief of staff, who toured the sites. "The land is so saturated."

In Edgeley, rain started shortly after 11 p.m. Tuesday. "By 12:30 it was a roaring mess," Neis said.

Several small streams start in hills to the west and join near town. Normally, they have little water in them, Neis said, but not Wednesday.

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Alan Spanier, who rents Denning's house, watched as the creek next to his yard widened from 20 feet to 60 feet in a half hour.

His wife, Kelly Spanier, came up from the basement shortly before the wall collapsed and water rushed in. They escaped without injury.

By the time the waters receded around 2:30 a.m. Wednesday, cornstalks from fields to the west littered streets and driveways and piled up under cars.

The stalks piled 2 feet high in front of Michelle Bollinger's house. Her basement didn't have water standing in it because her sump pumps kicked in, but she lost her basement furniture, including an antique dresser.

"I thought I was doing so good," Bollinger said as about a dozen people helped her haul furniture to the curb. "I just had a little puddle from the Sunday rains."

The city swimming pool, set to open today, is now full of muddy water.

"It was crystal clear and just beautiful," Neis said. "We're pretty sick about that."

A pickup truck topper moved two blocks onto Debbie and Lawrence Wald's front yard.

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But that was the least of their problems. The west wall of their basement caved in during the storm and filled with water in seconds, said Lawrence Wald.

The north and south walls are buckling, and Debbie Wald fears the whole house will be a total loss if there's any more rain.

She's just glad she was able to save the items she had been storing for her daughter's wedding in August.

"I will never live by a creek again," Debbie Wald said. "It will be at the top of a hill and there won't be a basement."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Andrea Domaskin at (701) 241-5556

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