BISMARCK, ND (AP) — A combination of severe weather has left at least 19,000 people in western North Dakota facing days without power and thousands of residents along the Red River that separates that state from Minnesota against flash floods.
A blizzard over the weekend that included a mix of snow, rain, ice and high winds snapped hundreds or thousands of utility poles across the western part of the state, leaving damage that a door a century-old utility company called it worse. never in his system.
At the same time, Minnesota sent members of the National Guard to assist with sandbags in Crookston, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) from the North Dakota border, due to heavy rains. The National Weather Service initially warned of a record high on the Red Lake River, but the river crested Monday at about 27 feet. The record high water mark was 28.4 feet in 1997.
North Dakota Emergency Services spokesman Eric Jensen estimated more than 19,000 people were without power “and it could be even more of that,” noting that tracking outages is a complicated process.
Mark Hanson, spokesman for Bismarck-based Montana-Dakota Utilities, said the northwest communities of Grenora, Zahl, Crosby, Powers Lake, McGregor and Wildrose are unlikely to be restored until later this week. Ambrose could be out for up to two weeks.
“The damage we’ve assessed so far is unprecedented,” Hanson said. “We have hundreds of broken sleepers and miles of broken poles.”
Montana-Dakota Utilities will have at least 15 crews in northwestern North Dakota this week, possibly more if aerial surveys Monday show even more damage than expected, the Bismarck Tribune reported.
The blizzard dropped up to 1½ feet of snow across western North Dakota and also brought widespread freezing rain that covered trees and power lines. Wind gusts of up to 50 mph were recorded in multiple locations.
In the Red River Valley, volunteers and members of the National Guard spent two days collecting sandbags to fortify the town of Crookston. About 50 of the 100 National Guard personnel authorized by Minnesota Governor Tim Walz participated in the flood response. No damage or injuries were reported.
The Red Lake River empties into the Red River in East Grand Forks and Grand Forks, North Dakota, where officials from both cities have begun activating some of their permanent flood protection measures put in place after a flood of 1997 that devastated both cities.
Forecasters are expecting a crest of 48 feet (14.63 meters) later this week on the Red River in Grand Forks, but towns have protection at 57 feet (17.37 meters) and higher. Built-in flood walls were activated on both sides of the river. Authorities planned on Monday to close one of the bridges that connect the two cities.
The town of Valley City in southeastern North Dakota, which sits along another tributary of the Red River, has put up sandbags to protect against the rising Sheyenne River. Fargo officials donated 29,000 sandbags to help.
Valley City Mayor Dave Carlsrud said community pride was evident in the number of people, including Valley City State University students, who volunteered.
“People are fair, which is why I love living in North Dakota. Last week when it was blowing snow on my face, I wasn’t too sure. But today I still am,” Carlsrud said.
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