Wednesday, March 25, 2009


O.K. This is way off the subject of food. There is no way I can ignore this however. Cities and town all over my state are flooding. Let me start at the beginning. The above picture is of me standing on the roof of my house this January. In the area where I was standing there was over 3 feet of snow on the roof. Most of the roof had about 18" of snow. Here is the problem. I don't live on or near a mountain. North Dakota is flat plains.
The picture on the top right is of ice that came off of my roof. This piece was by far the biggest. 6 inches thick, 3 feet wide, and 3 1/2 feet tall. The ice is sitting on what was then a 3 foot snow bank of very compacted snow. In the background you see a pile of snow as high as the roof. That too was very compacted. I stopped using the ladder on the left side of the picture and just jumped directly from the snowbank to the roof. Snow in the area of my yard by the ice is currently at 5 feet deep after the Tuesday blizzard.
The picture on the bottom right shows my house from street level. If you look to the right of the electrical pole you can see me sitting on my bum on my roof shoveling snow. Battling snow has taken up much of my time this winter. I've done way less cooking then I would like. The snow battle still continues.
Last week the thing North Dakotans usually wait all winter for happened. It warmed up. This year we were dreading it, because we knew what it meant. Floods. Near record snowfall (we're not done yet) caused record and near record flooding. Early this week North Dakota towns Hazen, Beulah, Mott, and Linton flooded. Linton was just returning from winning the Boys Class B Basketball Tournament the day before.

Bismarck :
The Missouri River does not routinely flood. When it does flood it floods houses near the river. On Sunday, huge pieces of Ice flowed into the Missouri from the Heart River and Knife river (tributaries). By huge, I mean three feet thick. Some pieces were described as the size of a Volkswagen. This ice, along with ice from the Missouri itself, formed an ice dam. The ice dam is causing water from the river to back up into the city of Bismarck. All residents south of Main street have been told to evacuate. You don't have to be familiar with a particular city to know that's allot of houses in danger. Major thoroughfares are flooded. The ice jams to the south extend 100 miles to the South Dakota Border. The Army Corp of Engineers is using explosives in an attempt to get the ice moving. They are also using Blackhawk Helicopters to dump salt on the ice to melt it. Buckets usually carrying water to put out forest fires are now filled with salt instead. The Corps efforts that began at 4pm Wednesday appear to be going well. The river level has been dropping since Tuesday night. Bismarck cannot be sure the worst is over. Ice dams are extremely unpredictable. They are not sure what will happen with the ice jams to the south of Bismarck. Also, just to the north of Bismarck is another ice dam that is currently keeping water out of Bismarck. However if that ice dam should let loose, the water would flow into Bismarck.

Fargo has two unusual problems for flooding. One is that the city is flat, flat, flat, flat. I can't find the information online, but I'd estimate that the elevation of the city only varies by 10 feet. So that means if the dike goes, the city goes. In 1997 in a similar flood scenario, the entire city of Grand Forks (north of Fargo) was under water. (Then it caught on fire, but I digress) The second problem is that the Red River flows south to north. This means that upstream snow, that is further south, has melted before the snow at Fargo (further north) has melted. The snow has to melt before you can begin sandbagging. You can't sandbag on top of a snowbank. Fargo had one week to prepare for the flood this year and they had three weeks in the 1997 flood (they just made it in that flood). This flood should crest at 41 feet. (flood stage is 18 feet) Fargo has less then 48 hours (the river will crest Saturday) to build the dikes one more foot higher. Dikes are as wide on the bottom as they are high. This means that the current dike surrounding the whole city must be built up one foot wider and one foot taller. They are filling sandbags around the clock. Schools and businesses are shut down to help with the effort. The Red River is rising 2 inches per hour.
The '97 flood and the '09 flood should be floods at levels that only occur every 100 years. But, we've had two in 12 years.
If you are interested in the flooding in North Dakota, you can follow my twitter. I add links to pictures, news stories, and have general flood updates several times a day. This helps to keep out of state relatives up to date on flood developments. My twitter is also on the left hand side of my blog.
I have to apologize if anything in this post does not make sense. I'm not sleeping much lately because I have the flu. I promise to get back to cooking and posting about food some day.

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