Editor's note: Much has been written and said, often mere speculation, on what events led up to this year's devastating flood up and down the Souris River Valley. Staff Writer Kim Fundingsland, one of the key reporters covering the flood for The Minot Daily News, has prepared a timeline that might confirm or debunk some common beliefs concerning the flood. It's interesting reading, but certainly, the final chapter on the flood of 2011 has yet to be written.
Releases begin from Alameda Reservoir.
Water surges out of Rafferty Reservoir near Estevan, Sask., in this May 10 photograph. A wet fall, heavy snowfall and spring rains pushed Canadian reservoirs to full capacity.
"Above normal precipitation during this past summer and fall has left much of the eastern portion of Saskatchewan saturated. Rivers and creeks are flowing at rates well above normal for this time of year and some streams, which are normally dry in the fall, are flowing. It is anticipated that these flows will continue throughout the winter." Saskatchewan Watershed Authority
Sat., 8th Lake Darling releasing 200 cubic feet per second with plans to increase to 450 cfs.
Mon., 10th Saskatchewan Watershed Authority begins first-ever winter releases from Rafferty Reservoir "necessary for spring flood protection and to meet the water level requirements specified in the International Agreement on Water Supply and Flood Control in the Souris River Basin with the United States."
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Flood Insurance meeting held in Minot Municipal Auditorium because of "the frequency and severity of flood events in North Dakota."
Fri., 14th Towner ranchers say they have never seen conditions as wet as they are at this point in the winter. Some sump pumps that hadn't run since 1959 were pumping constantly. Reports say the water table in some areas has risen from 8 feet to 3 1/2 feet or less.
Wed., 26th North Dakota Insurance Commissioner Adam Hamm advises it is time to think about purchasing flood insurance. The National Weather Service predicts "major flooding" probable once the spring melt gets under way. Souris River Basin in Canada has received heavy snowfall on top of 200 percent of normal moisture in many areas, including the Moose Mountains drainage.
Tues., 1st Canada warns of "potential for above normal spring runoff throughout all of southern Saskatchewan."
Thurs., 6th Lake Darling releasing 600 cfs.
Fri., 18th National Weather Service issues ominous Flood Potential Outlook for the Souris River Basin.
"The risk of flooding from late winter into spring is well above normal for most locations in the Souris River Basin. In fact, several locations do not have historical model solutions that would produce an orderly runoff with no flood risk.
That goes through 60 years of historical data. It's probably in the top three in terms of water sitting in the basin. The basic expectation is for a tremendous amount of water coming through the Souris Basin this spring. There's a pile of water for this time of year, a pile of water." Alan Schlag, NWS.
Wed., 23rd Lake Darling releasing 900 cfs.
International Souris River Board meets in Regina, Sask. The City of Minot does not have a representative at the meeting. A 1 in 10 flood event is declared, meaning control of Lake Darling reservoir is turned over to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Thurs., 24th Lake Darling releasing 1,000 cfs.
Fri., 25th Lake Darling releasing 1,100 cfs.
NWS reports that models show this year's snowpack contains a water content ranked among the highest in the last 60 years.
Sat., 26th Lake Darling level at 1,594.9. Date given by Corps as notified of flood event.
"This year seems to be setting up to be different. We had a wet fall, springs are running, no frost and early snow cover. The ground is wet and saturated. The airborne survey shows a lot of water content." Ed Eaton, Corps hydrologist.
Thurs., 3rd Latest NWS Flood Outlook notes increased potential for flooding throughout the Souris Basin.
"There is significantly more water in some areas than was estimated earlier in the wintertime. Cooperation by the weather cannot be expected." Alan Schlag, NWS.
Broadway Bridge given a 52 percent chance of reaching flood stage of 1,549 feet.
Fri., 4th Lake Darling level at 1,594.5, overflow is 1,601.8 feet.
Fri., 11th "Right now we're continuing to release about 1,100 cfs from Lake Darling and don't plan to make any changes in the foreseeable future." Elizabeth Nelson, Corps' water control office in St. Paul, Minn.
Sat., 19th Lake Darling level at 1,594.7.
Mon., 21st Lake Darling level at 1,594.88.
Tues., 22 Heavy snowfall in Minot, schools close, Minot receives 8 to 10 inches of snow.
Fri., 25th New NWS Flood Outlook shows a big jump in Souris River predictions, increasing the possibility of reaching flood stage at Broadway Bridge from 52 percent to 82 percent. The Souris is given a 62 percent chance of reaching 1,551 feet. and the Des Lacs River a 90 percent change of surpassing flood stage.
NWS warns Souris River residents to prepare for a lengthy period of high water.
Mon., 28th NWS hydrologist Alan Schlag makes a spring flood presentation at the Elmer Jesme Conference of Counties in Minot.
"This is a significant flood event year. As far as the Souris River water, there is something pretty significant going on. There's lots of water sitting on the ground in the Kenmare area and over the Des Lacs Basin. Even with a normal or gradual melt, there's going to be widespread flooding along the river.
There's 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 inches of water below Rafferty and Alameda Dams in Saskatchewan that has to come off this spring. That is a recipe for disaster at this point. Those dams, and Lake Darling, provide a great deal of protection but there's only so much they can do." Alan Schlag, NWS.
All three dams in Saskatchewan are at or below flood storage zones.
Wed., 30th City begins plans for emergency diking. NWS confirms forecast.
"It is substantial. It is very wet in the Souris Basin." Patrick Ayd, NWS.
"We will be looking at cutting back releases within the next week. We're close to our drawdown target so we'll have to cut back now that we're going down." Elizabeth Nelson, Corps' water control office, St. Paul.
Rafferty Reservoir 19.1 feet below spillway level, Alameda 34.4 feet below spillway, Lake Darling 6 feet below spillway
Fri., 1st Lake Darling level at 1,594.98.
City begins preliminary plans for protection against 7,000 cfs.
Sat., 2nd Des Lacs begins to flow, opens some holes in ice.
Fri., 8th Lake Darling gates closed.
Sun., 10th Lake Darling releasing 1,000 cfs.
Mon., 11th Lake Darling releasing 2,400 cfs. First flooding occurs in Burlington.
Tues., 12th Lake Darling cuts releases to 1,500 cfs at 12:15 p.m., record flow of 6,790 cfs is recorded in Long Creek.
"The Des Lacs is outperforming our expectations. Quite honestly, there's a distinct possibility it could come up some more. Our satellite imagery is still showing a good deal of snow in the western portion of the Des Lacs watershed. It's such an unusual event that it is hard to get a forecast model to accept it." Alan Schlag, NWS.
Broadway Bridge 1,846.6 feet, flow of 3,600 cfs.
Burlington evacuations occur as Des Lacs reaches 22.31 feet.
Thurs., 14th "We expect the water to run high for quite a long time. There will be a tremendous amount of water moving for a long time. There's a lot of water still to come down from Canada." Todd Sando, State Water Commission.
Corps announces target flow goal of 5,000 cfs at the Boy Scout Bridge.
Fri., 15th U.S. Geological Survey release claims "Highest Souris Streamflow in 40 years."
Sat., 16th Lake Darling level at 1,599.94.
Sun. 17th Corps lists 19 items along Minot and Burlington levee system as "unacceptable." Lake Darling nears 1,600 feet.
Tues., 19th Sherwood reaches 19.17 feet, flood stage 18 feet.
"No real sign of relief in the future, even three weeks out. That's not contemplating the runoff from Canada." Alan Schlag, NWS.
"Rafferty is filling, not releasing. The top end of the drainage still has about 100 percent snow cover." Clinton Molde, Saskatchewan Watershed Authority.
Wed., 20th USGS declares "New Record Streamflows for Souris Basin." Record high flow set at Westhope.
Fri., 22nd Advisory/Warning for Souris issued in Weyburn, Sask., release of water from Rafferty to be ramped up to 2,118 cfs with an attempt to keep flows at Sherwood at 3,200 cfs or below to stay within treaty obligations. Souris at Sherwood flowing at 3,800 cfs.
Sun., 24th Lake Darling level at 1,599.08.
Tues., 26th Flow at Boy Scout Bridge reaches 5,440 cfs, flooding under way.
Flow at Broadway Bridge 1,549.65 feet.
"The Souris River broke all-time flow records in its upper reaches, snow remains and flows are increasing." Saskatchewan Watershed Authority
Thurs., 28th "The Canadians desire to keep the releases at 3,200 cfs but we haven't seen all the runoff yet into Rafferty Reservoir. They are at levels they've not seen before and I think it is reasonable for changes to occur." Alan Schlag, NWS.
Fri., 29th Three-member FEMA team tours Ward County areas impacted by runoff. "We've seen a lot of damage and we're just getting started." Robert Gellner, FEMA team member.
Lake Darling releases cut from 4,000 cfs to 3,600 cfs, citing blizzard warning.
Souris flow declining slightly at Weyburn where record flows had already occurred. Current flow at 2,294 cfs.
Rafferty releasing 2,153 cfs and Alameda 775 cfs.
Sherwood gauge is 2,000 cfs.
Mon., 2nd Rafferty reaches season high of 1,816 feet, 8 feet over previous high and only 2 feet below overflow. Release rate 2,118 cfs, causes localized flooding in Estevan, Sask.
Boundary Reservoir within 2 1/2 inches of spilling.
Sherwood flow 2,160 cfs.
Boy Scout Bridge flow at 4,570 cfs.
Lake Darling releasing 3,800, Corps announces cut to 3,000 cfs by Friday.
Wed., 4th Saskatchewan Watershed Authority announces increased releases to 3,530 cfs matching highest flows of the year. Alameda releasing 847 cfs bringing the Sherwood gauge over the previous goal of 3,200 cfs.
"We expected that news. It was just a matter of when." Alan Reynolds, Ward. County Emergency Manager.
Thurs., 5th - The Minot Daily News reports nearly all goals regarding the spring melt have been met or exceeded with the expectation all will go higher.
Lake Darling at 1,597.6 feet, releases 3,800 cfs.
Tony Merriman, NWS, cautions that there is still a lot of unknowns in regard to the amount of water that may come down the Souris from Canada.
Tues., 10th The Minot Daily News travels to Rafferty Reservoir to witness major release of water, reports Souris River upstream from Minot is nearing uncontrolled status.
Releases from Saskatchewan dams totals 4,907 cfs.
Rafferty and Boundary declared "pass through" facilities by Saskatchewan Watershed Authority and an "Advisory" is issued for the Souris Basin.
Flows of 7,000 to 10,000 cfs at Sherwood predicted as rainstorm approaches.
Lake Darling releases cut from 3,800 to 3,500 cfs, elevation 1,597.15 feet.
Wed., 11th Saskatchewan Watershed Authority announces Rafferty at maximum allowable elevation, meaning outflows must match inflows. Boundary and Rafferty are also at maximum levels with no capacity to store further inflows. Alameda expected to reach maximum elevation by May 17.
Saskatchewan releases total 8,472 cfs.
The Minot Daily News reports huge releases from Rafferty with the likelihood of much more.
"I've lived here forever and I've never seen anything like this." Clint Dougherty, Estevan resident.
NWS again warns Souris locations to prepare for one of the lengthiest water events in history. A new Flood Outlook increases numbers all along the Souris.
Lake Darling releases upped to 4,000 cfs with 5,000 cfs scheduled.
Flow at Boy Scout Bridge 5,940 cfs.
Sherwood flow 3,250 cfs and increasing.
Flood stage of 1,549 feet reached at Broadway Bridge.
Thurs., 12th Saskatchewan dam releases upped to 9,390 cfs.
NWS Flood Outlook calls for 1,551.3 feet and 6,610 cfs at Broadway Bridge tonight.
"Rafferty is full. Boundary is full. Long Creek is running high and Alameda will be full. Lake Darling is expected to fill. When you add them all up, the cumulative is that it's pretty ugly." Alan Schlag, NWS.
Rafferty roadway closed for additional rip-rapping.
"There's no stopping the water. There's just no way around it." Alan Reynolds, Ward County Emergency Manager.
Lake Darling cuts releases from 4,000 cfs to 3,700 cfs, level at 1,597.21 feet.
Broadway Bridge at 1,549.69 feet.
Fri., 13th Saskatchewan dam releases at 8,472 cfs, Lake Darling releasing 4,400 cfs.
Sat., 14th Saskatchewan dam releases at 7,413 cfs, Lake Darling releasing 4,400 cfs.
Sun., 15th Saskatchewan dam releases 6,884 cfs, Lake Darling releasing 4,400 cfs with a level of 1,596.93 feet.
Broadway Bridge at 1,549.8 feet.
Flooding at Mouse River Park, Sherwood flow at 8,500 cfs and increasing, NWS projects 9,420 cfs at Sherwood.
Mon., 16th Saskatchewan dam releases at 6,600 cfs, Lake Darling releasing 4,600 cfs.
The Minot Daily News reports "river gauges indicate the ill-tempered Souris wasn't about to adhere to anyone's schedule."
Tues., 17th Lake Darling releasing 4,800 cfs, most ever.
Wed., 18th Lake Darling releasing 4,800 cfs.
Thurs., 19th Lake Darling releasing 5,000 cfs, level at 1,597.69 feet, Baker Bridge at 16.04 feet, second highest on record.
NWS issues Flood Watch for Souris and Des Lacs drainages, 1 to 2 inches of rain possible.
1,850 feet now expected at Broadway Bridge.
The Minot Daily News evicted from emergency operations meeting at First District Health Unit.
Fri., 20th First press conference held by city, city announces opposition to increased release rate of 6,000 cfs from Lake Darling.
"We do not invite the media because we want to ensure that we get the accurate information to you to avoid any confusion." e-mail response from Ward County Homeland Security Planner regarding The Minot Daily News' expulsion from meeting.
City workers begin erecting Hesco barriers along Fourth Avenue Northwest, other preparations under way for possible 7,000 cfs.
"The situation remains very precarious. Lake Darling will fill in a few days. The reservoirs on the Souris are full, or near full. It's a dilemma trying to manage this." Roland Hamborg, Corps of Engineers.
News release from Corps office in St. Paul says its plan calls for decreasing outflow from Lake Darling.
Sat., 21st Many basements in Minot reported to be taking on water, Broadway Bridge level at 1,552 feet.
Mon., 23rd Water begins to enter city, NWS Flood Outlook calls for "additional rises."
Gov. Jack Dalrymple, Minot Mayor Curt Zimbelman and Burlington Mayor Jerome Gruenberg take helicopter tour of river valley above Minot. What they see is a river valley full of water, Lake Darling full of water and several homes flooded.
"We've got problems." Mayor Curt Zimbelman.
"People have just given up. They're tired of the fight." Mayor Jerome Gruenberg.
Tues., 24th Minot City Council holds a special meeting to secure services of Corps of Engineers.
Lake Darling level at 1,600.14 feet with releases of 5,100 cfs.
"They tell me they'll start opening the gates on Thursday. It's a race." Alan Walter. Minot public works director.
Broadway Bridge elevation 1,551.9 feet, flow is 6,700 cfs.
Wed., 25th Dike improvement under way in Minot to protect against 9,000 cfs.
Lake Darling releasing 5,500 cfs.
Thurs., 26th Dike construction continues, some road closures in city, citizens told no immediate need to evacuate but should consider preparations to do so.
Fri., 27th Lake Darling level at 1,600.86, releasing 5,800 cfs.
Sat., 28th Saskatchewan Watershed Authority increases outflows from Saskatchewan dams in response to rainfall.
The Minot Daily News reports "entire Souris River reservoir system remains near capacity and vulnerable to significant rainfall."
"It's an extraordinary event that is getting beyond the flood they were designed for." Roland Hamborg, Corps of Engineers.
Tues., 31st Lake Darling level at 1,601.26.
"There will be flooding in the city of Minot." Col. Michael Price, Corps of Engineers.
Work begins on a secondary dike system to protect vital infrastructure in Minot.
Saskatchewan Watershed Authority announces "reservoirs have no capacity to store further inflows."
Wed., 1st Saskatchewan dams releasing 7,943 cfs.
An estimated 10,000 Minot residents begin mandatory evacuation following a noon announcement to "get out of harm's way as soon as possible."
Rainfall causes Des Lacs River to rise 7 feet at Foxholm in 24 hours.
Minot told to expect 10,000 cfs, announces plan to raise primary diking system and fight the flood at the riverbank.
NWS Flood Outlook calls for 1,555 feet at Broadway Bridge with 9,400 cfs.
Lake Darling releasing 4,800 cfs.
Saskatchewan Watershed Authority announces need to work with the U.S. on a "longer term plan to re-establish some flood protection in the reservoirs."
Thurs., 2nd Volunteer evacuees from Burlington allowed to return home.
Lake Darling releases 5,400 cfs, 8,000 cfs being released from Saskatchewan reservoirs.
Corps says to expect 6,000 cfs at Sherwood.
Fri., 3rd Saskatchewan dams releasing 7,943 cfs.
Mon., 6th Saskatchewan dams releasing 7,943 cfs.
Minot evacuees allowed to return home.
Broadway Bridge reading 1,551.8 feet at 7,100 cfs, Lake Darling releasing 6,000 cfs.
Sherwood gauge climbing, secondary dike along 16th Street being removed.
Joshua Scheck, NWS, warns rainfall would cause the river to come back up.
Wed., 7th Sherwood flow at 8,230 cfs, fourth highest ever recorded.
Lake Darling releasing 6,400 cfs., level at 1,600.19 feet.
Thurs., 9th Lake Darling releases upped to 7,500 cfs.
"The river is full, the dams are full and we'll be riding that edge of vulnerability of very large precipitation events. That makes me nervous." Alan Schlag, NWS.
Fri., 10th Lake Darling releasing 8,100 cfs as confirmed by USGS gauging team. Lake Darling level is 1,600.45 feet.
At a City Hall press conference, Mayor Zimbelman, citing numbers obtained from the Corps, says releases from Saskatchewan dams total 5,130 cfs. Total listed on Estevan Web site was 6,178 cfs.
The Minot Daily News reports "unprecedented releases are an 11th hour effort to lower Lake Darling."
"If Darling fills, if there is no storage, Minot is as susceptible to flooding as a town with no dam." Joshua Scheck, NWS.
Sat., 11th Lake Darling releasing 7,500 cfs, USGS gauging shows 7,800 cfs.
Sun., 12th Broadway Bridge reaches 1,553.5, new high for the year.
Mon., 13th Lake Darling releasing 7,500 cfs at an elevation of 1,600.75 feet, filling is projected.
Broadway Bridge at 1,553 feet with a flow 8,100 cfs.
Tues., 14th Lake Darling releasing 7,800 cfs.
NWS Flood Outlook for 1,554.1 at Broadway Bridge
"You are living one day at a time because each rain storm is a bullet that needs to be dodged." Joshua Scheck, NWS.
Wed., 15th Lake Darling releasing 7,800 cfs
Saskatchewan releasing 5,118 cfs (On Estevan Web site previous day).
At noon press conference mayor announces 3,730 cfs from Canada citing Corps as source.
Broadway Bridge at 8,480 cfs.
Thurs., 16th Lake Darling releasing 7,800 cfs.
Sun., 19th Saskatchewan releasing at Estevan 15,885 cfs (following significant rain).
11 p.m. Releasing 19,415 cfs.
Mon., 20th Lake Darling releasing 8,600 cfs, Saskatchewan dams releasing 23,760 cfs.
Mandatory evacuations ordered again in Minot.
NWS forecasts 1,564.3 feet at Broadway Bridge, releases of 17,000 cfs said possible for Lake Darling.
"Rating curves just don't apply anymore." Alan Schlag, NWS.
Tues., 21st Rafferty and Boundary releases through Estevan, Sask., reach 27,181 cfs, an additional 1,765 cfs released from Alameda for a total of 28,946 cfs.
"What I see right now is probably the most devastating in terms of the number of people directly impacted and what it will do to damage homes as water begins to overtop the levees and fill in behind." Major Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, N.D. National Guard.
Minot evacuation deadline moved from 10 p.m. Wednesday to 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Wed., 22nd Sirens sound to evacuate all Minot flood zones, Souris flow at Estevan is 25,063 cfs.
"We're looking at another 7 feet of water." Minot Mayor Curt Zimbelman.
Thurs., 23rd Souris flow at Estevan releases is 21,533 cfs.
Fri., 24th Souris flow at Estevan is 15,827 cfs.
Souris River peaks at 29,700 cfs at Sherwood says USGS, previous record was 14,800 cfs in 1976.
Lake Darling releasing 26,000 cfs, Broadway Bridge forecast now 1,564.5 feet, water begins flowing into city.
"It's a stupendous amount of water for the Souris. The cat is way out of the bag and there's a lot of pain heading towards Minot." Alan Schlag, NWS.
Top headline on front page of The Minot Daily News reads simply, "Swamped."
Sat., 25th Landsat 7 Satellite Imagery tracks record flooding in Minot.
Lake Darling releasing 24,000 cfs.
Mayor Curt Zimbelman announces crest of 1,561.8 feet reached at Broadway Bridge, boil order issued for Minot water supply.