The swollen Souris River, the dirty rotten scoundrel that has overwhelmed and punished this city in recent days, was backing off from its merciless work Sunday. Apparently satisfied that enough is enough, sort of, and having pushed citizens of this city far beyond any other watery test in history, the long-awaited crest was believed to have passed through Minot during the early hours Sunday.
By late Sunday afternoon Minot Mayor Curt Zimbelman was confident enough to say "we believe the crest has passed." Zimbelman was referring to a river peak of 1,561.72 feet, nearly four feet higher than the city's all-time mark of 1,558 feet set in 1881 and nearly six and one-half feet over the fearful flood of 1969. The Souris reading at Minot's Broadway Bridge was 1,561.5 feet late Sunday afternoon and was forecast by the National Weather Service to continue dropping.
Therein lies a problem, however. The river has no intention of running out of town nearly as fast as it arrived. Flows exceeding the all-time record can be expected at least into next weekend. Still, any decline was worthy of notice by beleagured citizens weary of worrying about their vacated homes and wondering when they might be given the okay to return.
Kim Fundingsland/MDN • A homeowner’s prayer was answered Sunday in northwest Minot.
Kim Fundingsland/MDN • Ramstad Middle School is shown engulfed in water.
Kim Fundingsland/MDN • The Third Street Viaduct, Victory Pedestrian Bridge and Broadway Bridge are shown Sunday afternoon.
Kim Fundingsland/MDN • These homes are among an estimated 4,000 flooded by the Souris River in Minot. The walking path at the north edge of Souris Valley Golf Course can be seen in the top left corner of the photograph. The line in the upper right portion of the photograph is the railroad tracks that cross over the 16th Street underpass near Harley’s Arrowhead Conoco.
Kim Fundingsland/MDN • Oh the joy! As shown by this white line near 21st Street and Second Avenue Northwest, the level of the Souris River was receding by late Sunday morning.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers provided some insight into that timetable Sunday, saying that flows out of Lake Darling Dam had been reduced from 24,000 to 23,000 cubic feet per second Sunday. Further decreases of 1,000 to 2,000 cfs per day can be expected over the next 14 days.
The Souris at Sherwood was flowing at slightly less than 20,000 cfs Sunday, still a remarkably high flow by historic standards but a lower number nevertheless. The elevation of Lake Darling was just under 1,601 feet late Sunday with indications that a decline was underway. Peak elevation there is 1,601.8 feet.
In the days ahead, while the water remains well over flood stage and a continuing threat to the city, all effort will be required to maintain and protect the integrity of dikes protecting infrastructure and at least one neighborhood within Minot. A large portion of northeast Minot remains remarkably dry, courtesy of a massive dike built primary along Fourth Avenue for the purpose of keeping any flood waters from inundating North Broadway.
FEMA: 375 of 4,000 flooded homes have flood insurance
Just how economically devastating the flood of 2011 will turn out to be might best be quantified by the number of residences that were covered by federal flood insurance or rather, the number not covered by insurance.
According to FEMA, as of June 22, just 471 homes had flood insurance policies in effect. Of those, 375 are located in the area now flooded.
It's been estimated that 4,000 homes in the Minot area sustained flood damage.
While extreme vigilance will be required in Minot in the coming days, the main burden of the river's powerful swing through the state now descends on points downstream - Logan, Sawyer and Velva among them. Unwilling to say goodbye without coiling to strike a few additional communities, the Souris Sunday remained almost two feet lower than what it was expected to reach at Velva sometime today.
When the waters of the Souris finally do leave the state, the river will have left behind a record breaking performance the likes of which, seemingly, cannot be equaled. Some say it was the work of Mother Nature. Others point to the fact that it was stored water that roared down the Souris, picking off one town at a time. Most agree that, at the very least, historic changes in reservoir operation and flood protection are sure to result.