March 25, 2009

Warm temps bring flooding

By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer

Flooding along Cherry Creek last Sunday left area businesses and home owners scrambling to protect their property, belongings and animals from rapidly rising water.
“The heat over the weekend and the accumulations of snow over the winter coupled with ice jams caused Cherry Creek to spill over its banks,” says Jerry Samuelson, McKenzie County emergency manager. “The result was local flooding in and around Watford City.”
According to Samuelson, the main concerns were in the two subdivisions around the creek which include the Cherry Creek Trailer Court and homes southwest along the creek.
“There are also six or seven homes downstream from the creek that we were concerned about,” adds Samuelson. “Many roads were covered with water causing washouts and dangerous situations, so we put out a No Travel Advisory at 9 p.m. on Sunday night to keep people off those roads.”
All day Sunday and into the night, volunteers from all around McKenzie County filled and placed sandbags.
“We had volunteers helping fill sandbags all day,” says Samuelson. “We didn’t know how high the water was going to rise so we put an alert on the local T.V. channels asking for volunteers to fill sandbags, and at one point I know there were at least 100 people helping.”
Volunteers have been credited for keeping water out of several homes in the county as well as giving the county a surplus of filled sandbags in case this week’s predicted storm causes more flooding.
“I live along the creek by the Schafer Jail and when LeMoine Hartel saw that the water was about to come over the bank he made some calls and got all of his sons to start sandbagging,” says Laura Dodds. “Pretty soon we had tons of people sandbagging at our place. There were county employees, firemen and lots of other people.”
Dodds is certain that without all of those volunteers, she would have had water in the south side of her home.
“The water was up the side of the house, but we are lucky that it stayed out,” comments Dodds. “Monday morning the water had receded some, but with the prediction of snow and rain we’re still keeping our fingers crossed.”
As water continued to rise throughout the evening, McKenzie County employees with the road and bridge department did their best to keep up with flooded and damaged roads in an effort to keep area residents aware of the conditions and safe.
“We ran out of road closed signs, so now all we can do is put up flags and hope people stay out,” says Orrin Moe, McKenzie County employee. “It seems that no matter where you put the signs or flags, people still try to drive on the roads,”
Amidst all of the water and unsafe conditions, according to Samuelson, people were determined to see all of the water.
“The Police Department and Sheriff’s Office was busy getting people out of unsafe situations,” says Samuelson. “There were people in boats, walking along the creek and even kids riding their bikes through flooded areas. Things were really crazy around here on Sunday.”
Flooding wasn’t the only problem brought about by the rising creek, as power outages kept McKenzie Electric Cooperative employees busy Sunday and into Monday.
According to Steve Lautenschlager, operations supervisor for McKenzie Electric Cooperative, rising water caused outages south and east of Watford City.
“South of town we had a line go down when an ice chunk hit and broke a pole,” says Lautenschlager. “East of town we had an entire subdivision without power, and because of the water we haven’t been able to determine what caused that outage.”
The outages south of Watford City were minor outages lasting for only a few hours, but residents in the subdivision east of town were without power from approximately 9 p.m. Sunday until 11:30 a.m. Monday.
“Our cabinets are all under water so we were unable to fix the problem east of town,” says Lautenschlager. “But, we were able to restore power by laying some temporary lines to re-route things and bypass the problem area. Once the water has receded we’ll go back in and assess the problem so we can make a permanent fix.”
As Monday morning dawned, the creek was still over its banks but the water was noticeably lower.
“We were happy to see that things had gotten better overnight,” adds Samuelson. “But that doesn’t mean it won’t get bad again.”
With the National Weather System predicting a spring storm capable of bringing two inches of rain or two feet of snow, McKenzie County residents have been left on edge, hoping that the storm will miss our county and the creek will continue going down.