March 26, 2009

Beulah devastated by flood, then blizzard

March Madness, North Dakota style, arrived in Beulah last Sunday. By the time it was over the Knife River through Beulah would reach an estimated 27 feet, rivaling the legendary flood of 1997, the last major flooding event here. Behind the floodwaters would come snowfall estimated at from 12-18 inches in the Beulah area, whipped Monday night and through Tuesday by blizzard force winds exceeding 40 miles per hour at gust levels.

The combined forces of nature brought all but emergency travel to a standstill, although people continued to drive in spite of a "no travel" request posted on the city cable channel. That travel resulted in stalled and stuck vehicles, which would hamper emergency travel by authorities and snow removal, when the city began to dig out.

The anticipated flooding of the Knife River and its tributaries, primarily Spring Creek, began to reach reality stage on Sunday. By noon the alerts were coming down river. There was reportedly a lot of water and big ice jams creating a flood plain in the western end of the county and it was only a matter of time until that oncoming water would pose a serious threat. There was little doubt that Beulah would face flooding from the Knife and Spring Creek, which runs through the town, threatened Zap.

By early Sunday afternoon Beulah officials began going door to door in Beulah’s southside where the floodwaters would spread out. Two attempts were reportedly made and over 400 persons contacted and advised of the threat of a flood and a voluntary evacuation was suggested.

Some citizens did evacuate and were housed at the Beulah Civic Center where a Red Cross shelter was set up. Others, in the dozens, sought refuge in local motels or with friends and family. Beulah officially had no count on how many people actually evacuated. Both the Red Cross and the Salvation Army were engaged in helping, the latter providing hot food prepared at the Civic Center to those living in the shelter as well as at motels. The Beulah Police Department, assisted by public works equipment, was able to deliver that food in spite of the blocked roadways during and after the blizzard.

In the early hours of Monday morning, the flood surge arrived. Daylight brought the story. N.D. Highway 49, the main traffic artery into Beulah, was closed at the Knife River bridge. There existed a huge flood plain all along the Knife River Basin and the water was continuing to rise, threatening more homes and property in the area of Beulah south of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad tracks, the buffer that protects the rest of the city.


The Weather Network