March 19, 2009

County talks flood, city officials get proactive

If your home flooded in 1997 you should be prepared to have water issues again this year.

"In a moderate melt the homes that had trouble in ’97 are going to experience problems again," Mercer County Emergency Manager Richard Sorenson said.

Sorensen gave the warning at an area-wide flood preparedness meeting Friday evening. Beulah Mayor Darrell Bjerke, Beulah City Councilman Steve Perry, Hazen Mayor Delmar Schramm, Hazen City Commissioner Mike Peterson, Hazen City Planner Steve Frovarp and Ed Schaper (with the Mercer County Highway Department) attended the meeting. The group discussed the preparations the cities and the county are taking to prepare for the coming season.

"We’re prepared to protect the citizens as well as we can from the city’s perspective," Bjerke said. "The homeowners are going to have to take steps to protect their own homes."

"The number one thing that residents can do is to take steps to prevent sewer backup," Sorenson said. "(In ’97) most didn’t report overland flooding, but basement flooding from sewer and septic backup.

In long-term planning, the best (protection) is check valves (in basement drains), for the short term it’s going to be plugs and sandbags. Plugs to block the pipe and sandbags for weight to hold it in place. They need to protect all the waste water outlets (in the basement) against backup."

According to Allen Schlag, Service Hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Bismarck, Beulah has a 60 percent chance of minor flooding this spring, and a 23 percent chance of a major event. Hazen has a considerably lesser chance of a major event, with a moderate chance for flooding in areas that have flooded before – which most recently was in 1997.

On March 23, 1997, the Knife River crested at 26.92 feet. According to the National Weather Service’s Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service, at 24 feet, secondary gravel roads and cropland would flood –mostly south of the river. At 25 feet, Beulah would become flooded – mainly south of railroad tracks, while Hazen would suffer little damage. The railroad tracks at the south end of Hazen would be topped by floodwaters at 27 feet.

Flood stage for the Knife River is 21 feet.

Schlag warns residents to expect the river to start rising sooner rather than later.

"You’re going to start to see the river rising clearly by the end of the week, more likely in the next couple of days. We’ve had you under a flood advisory since Saturday," he said. "That river’s going to see a lot of runoff. The snow pack is shrinking. Even though you’ve had (a few days) of warm weather (the melt water) hasn’t made it’s way to the river yet. It’s getting trapped in snowdrifts in the draws and creek banks. Once it starts, it’ll fill up rather quickly.

The Weather Network