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Commissioners review flood plan in preparation for possible round two

4/02/09 (Thu)

For months prior to the Knife River going over it’s banks last week, Hazen City Commissioners and planners have been discussing possibilities and ideas of how to handle a flood similar to Mercer County’s flood of 1997.

Now that the damage is done with major flooding in Beulah last week and to a lesser extent in Hazen, some of those same officials met last Friday to discuss further changes needed, if any, to the city’s flood plan. Though most of the events discussed were part of a specific pattern the 2009 flood created, officials suggest a quick melt as early as this weekend could create another possible flood threat.

Hazen City Commissioner Mike Peterson said there are still at least two known ice jams on the Knife River near Hazen and a lot of snowmelt still to come down the Antelope Creek drainage from the northwest, which could affect portions of the north half of town. Adding that to the 4 inches from Monday’s snowstorm, fellow Hazen City Commissioner Ken Link addressed the issue of added moisture content within the snow accumulation. He said in 1997 there was a record of 1.8 inches of moisture in the snow. In 2009, recordings showed 5.7 inches of moisture in the snow.

"That’s more than three times as much and there’s still 2 inches of moister out there," Link said before the Monday storm.

Peterson added he hopes citizens follow the advice from Richard Sorenson, county emergency manager, which is to "leave the sandbags until the snow is gone."

During Friday’s meeting Hazen Fire Chief Dan Wettstein asked if the city’s plan of plastic covering and sandbags kept water out of the manholes. Commissioners responded saying that two manholes had gotten water but the eight to10 wrapped manholes, plus additional ones decided later, had stayed dry.

Peterson offered the suggestion of building a horseshoe dike made of concrete around lift station No. 1 with possible drop-in stop boards. He suggested measurements of a wall 4 feet high, 8 inches wide and placing a permanent generator and submersible sump pump at that location.

Wettstein and a few other fire and rescue volunteers leaned in favor of an earth burm being built around the station with very little cost to the city.

In other future plans, Link would like to see permanent markers be put on all the area bridges, 4-6 inches wide with luminescent writing so the writing can easily be seen from a distance. It was decided those would be easy to come by with sign shops in Bismarck and Dickinson.

In addition to signs it was decided that bridge inspections need to be added to the flood plan, especially en light of the current condition of Boeckel’s Bridge on Highway 200 north to Pick City.

A long discussion about more efficient ways to alert the public prior to flooding moved the meeting forward. Mayor Delmar Schramm said he was confronted about shortening emergency messages on media outlets to 20 words or less. He added the city is hunting for ways to get the word out, especially with no local coverage on the radio stations and also to citizens with dish TV access.

Commissioner Myra Axtman admitted the city didn’t make appropriate use of the new Hazen City Web site. The idea to have a secretary set up a wireless Internet connection at the Fire Hall and keep the page updated was discussed.

"It would be our best communication. We at City Hall have been talking about using it all year round for snow emergencies, tornadoes, etc." Hazen City Auditor Sandy Bohrer said.

Another idea brought to the meeting was establishing a low-powered radio system, similar to those used on some college campuses so messages could get out whether during a power outage or whatever situation arrives.

All the commissioners present agreed to the need for a more assertive way to inform people of what to do during an evacuation. According to Mark Schmidt, the fire department went door-to-door in Beulah but it was a voluntary evacuation, nothing mandated. Peterson suggested stressing information about main breaks, propane tanks and turning off water at the meter.

Other topics addressed during the meeting included having city employees wear orange vests to make them clearly identifiable similar to police and fire fighters. Wettstein said he would like to see the fire fighters work out a shift schedule to keep from over exhaustion if the need should arise again. Peterson reminded those present to make sure volunteers are up-to-date on their tetanus shots. People should renew their shots every 10 years.