Minot flood breaks 1881 record, homes swamped 

Geese and airboats on patrol shared the swamped streets of Minot on Friday as the Souris River surged past its 1881 flood record, rising so quickly that its progress could be seen inching up the side of homes.

At 11 a.m. local time, the Souris tied the 1881 record after rising 11 inches in the previous hour. It should rise as much as 6 or 7 feet higher over the weekend, fed by heavy rain upstream and water releases from Canadian reservoirs.

North Dakota's fourth-largest city expected widespread flood damage, and as many as 10,000 residents, about one-fourth of the population, were ordered from their homes earlier this week. Crews focused on protecting critical infrastructure to avoid an expanded evacuation.
"We don't like to lose," Capt. Jeff Hoffer, an Army National Guard officer, said during a tour of flooded areas Friday. "This is very disheartening. I feel badly for all the people."

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service launched four boats on Friday to patrol flooded neighborhoods, ready to respond to 911 calls. City officials said no injuries or incidents had been reported overnight. The evacuation zone was empty except for emergency officials and the geese, who paddled in about 5 feet of water washing down the streets.

George Moe, whose house was about a block from the water's edge, returned briefly to pick up some keys. Moe said the only thing left in his house was the mounted head of an antelope shot by his wife, who died about three years ago.

Moe, 63, said he had lived in the house for 40 years. He worried about it as well as the shop where he works as a mechanic; it was taking on water and he was unsure he'd have a job after the flood.

"I hate to see something go to hell after 40 years," he said. "There ain't much you can do."

A lawn deer keeps its head above the flood waters from the Souris River in an evacuated western neighborhood of Minot, N.D., on Friday.

Forced to by heavy rain earlier, the Army Corps of Engineers on Thursday accelerated water releases from the upstream Lake Darling dam. In just four days, the predicted release of water from the dam more than doubled — from 11,000 cubic feet per second to 29,000.

National Weather Service hydrologist Steve Buan laid the blame on 4 to 6 inches of rain that fell last week in largely rural — and saturated — areas to the north.

The water released Thursday night would reach Minot about Friday evening, officials said.

With peak water levels expected Saturday or Sunday, Minot officials said they have done everything they can to protect critical infrastructure.

Mayor Curt Zimbelman said dikes have been raised as much as possible around the city's sewer lift station and can't be raised any higher. The city was confident the water treatment plant was protected.

"We need to hope that they hold," Zimbelman said.