Posted 4/03/19 (Wed)
By Neal A. Shipman
This has certainly been a very unusual spring when it comes to the amount of flooding that we have seen across the United States. While residents in parts of Nebraska and Iowa have seen their lives torn apart as floodwaters inundated thousands of acres of farmland, killed hundreds of animals and destroyed stored grains and crops, North Dakotans have not been immune to spring flooding.
All told, the damages in Nebraska alone are estimated to top over $400 million in damages to crops and another $400 million in lost livestock. And those damage estimates don’t take into account the damage to homes, businesses and other structures. And the story was the same in Iowa and other states that saw the Missouri River and other small waterways overflow their banks after a huge spring snowstorm.
And this year for the first time in 75 years, the Yellowstone River overflowed its banks as ice jams clogged the Yellowstone and Missouri rivers in western McKenzie County and eastern Montana forcing the evacuation of 50 homeowners.
Like so many natural disasters, flooding can occur almost overnight and leave a trail of destruction and misery in their wake. Such was the case in Nebraska, Iowa and in the Yellowstone River Valley. While flood warnings were issued, there is very little that those in the way of the wave of water that is heading their way can do to adequately prepare. There is no amount of sandbagging that can be done to stop an overland flood. People can snatch up a few of their most precious possessions, their children and pets before heading to higher ground. The rest of their lives is left behind.
Such is the story for our neighbors in the Yellowstone Valley. Their homes and outbuildings are severely damaged and now they are just waiting for the waters to recede before they are able to start piecing their lives back together.
But big questions remain for them. How much of their farming operation was damaged? Are the vehicles and farm equipment that they left behind still going to be operational? What are they going to have to do to make their homes livable again? And most importantly, do they have the insurance to cover all of their losses?
Last week, as North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum visited the flooded Yellowstone River region he issued an emergency declaration that makes state personnel and equipment available, as well as is the first step in pursuing a federal disaster declaration, which could bring additional assistance to local residents and political subdivisions.
While the flood waters are already going down in the Yellowstone River Valley, it is going to be months, if not years before those families who were impacted are going to get their lives back.
And elsewhere in North Dakota, especially in eastern North Dakota, there is concern once again that there is a possibility of flooding along the Red River.
Let’s hope and pray that Mother Nature does her part for the remainder of spring in reducing the chances of more flooding in the state. And that means mild daytime temperatures and cool evenings will help reduce the runoff as the rivers slowly open up.