First flood-fighting soldiers arrive in Moorhead area
ST. PAUL -- Two-hundred Minnesota National Guard soldiers joined the Moorhead-area flood fight today (Thursday).
Col. Dirk Kloss of the Guard said the soldiers will help patrol dikes and provide "a quick reaction force" to conduct dike repairs.
Activating the soldiers came shortly after Gov. Mark Dayton Wednesday signed an executive order declaring flood emergencies in 46 counties and two American Indian communities. Dayton's action allows the state to provide local governments with a variety of help, including Guardsmen.
Areas around the Crow, Minnesota and Mississippi rivers face a second flood crest in coming days, and many places in northwestern Minnesota are bracing for initial crests of the Red River and other streams in the area this weekend or next week.
The state Emergency Operations Center that coordinates state and local flood response already is open, but Dayton's action allows the state to provide more help.
Deputy Director Wade Setter of Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management said Dayton's order also allows local, state and federal damage assessment teams to begin working in southwestern Minnesota next week. The teams will work their way north as floodwaters recede.
Kloss said the first troops to be deployed to help with flooding will be in Moorhead and nearby Oakport and Georgetown townships.
John Margraf of National Weather Service said the Red River crest in Moorhead and elsewhere along the Red River will be near record levels for a couple of weeks.
Along the Minnesota River, Margraf said, crests in coming days likely will be lower than last week's first crests. Mississippi and St. Croix river waters will be slightly higher than last week, he added.
The Stillwater Lift Bridge is expected to close Friday morning.
"The weather is fairly quiet this week, fortunately," Margraf said, and predicted weekend rains would need to be very heavy before they significantly increase flooding.
"We are cautiously optimistic," Setter said, adding that so far no significant flood damage has been reported.
Despite relatively good news, Setter warned that "this is a very dangerous situation." That is true especially in places like Moorhead, he said, where "there is a lot of water moving through very fast."
With the Dayton executive order, Adjutant General Richard Nash, head of the state National Guard, now has authority to activate personnel, with needed equipment, to flight floods or provide relief.
Nash also may buy or lease goods needed to provide the aid.
Also available are employees and equipment from many state agencies, including the Department of Transportation.
On Friday, key legislators plan to visit the Moorhead area to see the flooding themselves.
Sens. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, and David Senjem, R-Rochester, will lead a bi-partisan delegation of Senate and House legislators. Ingebrigtsen and Senjem lead key committees to provide flood funds.
Lawmakers will tour the North Ottawa area and the Breckenridge flood control project before hosting a Moorhead flood impact and update hearing with more than a dozen local officials.
Counties in Dayton's emergency order are Aitkin, Becker, Benton, Big Stone, Blue Earth, Brown, Carver, Chippewa, Clay, Cottonwood, Dakota, Goodhue, Grant, Hennepin, Houston, Jackson, Kittson, Lac Qui Parle, Le Sueur, Lyon, Marshall, McLeod, Morrison, Nicollet, Norman, Otter Tail, Pennington, Polk, Ramsey, Redwood, Red Lake, Renville, Scott, Sibley, Stearns, Steele, Stevens, Swift, Todd, Traverse, Wabasha, Washington, Wilkin, Winona, Wright and Yellow Medicine. Also included are the Upper Sioux Agency and Prairie island Indian Community.
Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.