Maintaining Minot: Officials working to fight levee erosion
MINOT, N.D. - Efforts to prevent clay levees from eroding are the top priority for the flood fight here as the thousands affected by the flood begin to apply for federal assistance.
For Nancy Conlee, among those who visited a Disaster Recovery Center that opened Monday, being evacuated from her home is getting tiresome.
While the Souris River is as high as the eaves on Conlee's home, she is bouncing between friends' and family's houses with her husband and three kids, ages 1, 2 and 3.
"It's so chaotic," Conlee said. "They're at the age that they don't understand why we can't go home. They don't understand where their toys went."
Conlee and her youngest child, Zachary, stood in line Monday to apply for assistance through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Small Business Administration.
The family had flood insurance but dropped it when money was tight after Zachary was born and needed the neonatal intensive care unit. They plan to gut their home and rebuild.
"We can't afford to walk away from it," Conlee said. "Start over and pray it doesn't happen again."
By 5 p.m. Monday, about 115 people had visited one of the three Disaster Recovery Centers that opened Monday to help individuals and businesses process federal aid applications in Ward and Burleigh counties.
Donna Johnson, manager of the center at the Minot Municipal Auditorium, said people have questions about what's next, and many don't know yet if their homes are damaged.
Residents of Ward and Burleigh counties can apply for individual assistance from FEMA, and Gov. Jack Dalrymple said this week he's pushing to get that extended to other counties as well.
The centers also provide people with information about disaster unemployment, how to choose a reputable contractor and information about loans available through the state.
Janice Perlichek of Burlington is volunteering at the center to keep her mind off her flooded home and to help out her neighbors.
"You hear some very, very sad stories," Perlichek said.
Meanwhile, efforts to defend Minot and surrounding communities from floodwaters continued Monday as the Souris River is expected to remain high for several days.
Erosion of clay levees is a concern with water moving at about 10 to 12 feet per second, said Jeff DeZellar, public affairs officer for the U.S. Army Corps.
"That's an extremely fast-flowing stream," DeZellar said.
To prevent the clay levees from deteriorating, the corps is using chunks of rock called "rip rap" to reinforce the dikes. Rock is becoming difficult to find, so the corps is now using chunks of cement, DeZellar said.
A major focus is preserving the levees around the Broadway bridge, which connects the main north-south thoroughfare in Minot.
"This bridge is a critical piece of infrastructure," DeZellar said. "Otherwise the town of Minot essentially gets cut in half."
Erosion of levees was a concern for the National Guard as well Monday as Guard members worked on a sandbag mission at Perkett Elementary to reinforce a ring dike currently keeping the school dry.
A Blackhawk helicopter lifted 1-ton sandbags to the levee while Guard members used an aluminum boat to transport traditional sandbags.
Members of the Grand Forks Water Rescue Team assisted the mission.
"It brings back memories," said Cpl. Thomas Inocencio, who lived in Grand Forks during the 1997 flood.
Southeast of Minot, evacuation orders remained in effect for the small towns of Sawyer and Velva, but officials were breathing a little easier after levees were completed in time for the river to crest.
"I think for the most part they saved our town," said Sawyer Mayor Cy Kotaska.
Helping flood victims
There are several ways to help flood victims across the state.
In the Fargo-Moorhead area, donations of food and personal care items can be dropped off through July at Hornbacher's, Sunmart, Cash Wise and Walmart stores, as well as the Great Plains Food Bank, 1720 3rd Ave. N., Fargo.
Monetary donations can be given through the North Dakota Community Foundation's 2011 Flood Relief Fund. Donations can be made by online at www.ndcf.net/flood, by calling toll free at (800) 605-5252 or by mailing contributions to North Dakota 2011 Flood Relief Fund, PO Box 387, Bismarck, ND 58502-0387.
The fund will help communities needing assistance in recovering from major flood damages.
Other ways to help victims in the Minot and surrounding area include sending donations to:
* The Minot Red Cross at www.minotredcross.org.
* The Salvation Army's Northern Division at www.thesalarmy.org.
* The Minot Area Community Foundation, which has a fund targeted at flood recovery in the Minot region. Go to http://centerforcommunitygiving.com or call (701) 852-0646.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Amy Dalrymple at (701) 241-5590