ND Levee breached apparently under control

April 13, 2009 7:28:10 AM PDT
Residents were urged to evacuate part of a North Dakota town Monday while crews worked to plug a breach in a levee along the Sheyenne River, which was rising toward a record flood crest. Repair crews in Valley City were joined by National Guard helicopters dropping 1,000-pound sandbags into the breach Monday.

"As far as we know at this point, it appears to be under control," Mayor Mary Lee Nielson said at 8:30 a.m.

However, she said residents were not immediately allowed to return because construction crews were still at work.

Nielson did not know how many people evacuated in the town of 6,875 people. She said officials advised the evacuation because "we always err on the side of caution and get people out of harm's way when we can."

The Sheyenne is expected to crest at 22 feet Tuesday in Valley City, about 60 miles from Fargo, 2 feet higher than the record set in 1882, the National Weather Service said. That would close all but one of Valley City's 11 bridges, officials say.

The Sheyenne River empties into the Red River, expected to reach a second flood crest of its own near Fargo this week.

The Red River crested at Fargo and neighboring Moorhead, Minn., late last month just short of 41 feet, after an intense sandbagging effort that raised levees and helped the two cities largely escape major damage. That river's second crest at Fargo is projected to reach 38 feet to 39 feet.

The weather service issued a flood warning Sunday for large parts of western and central North Dakota.

Crews in Valley City also had to shore up a dike late Sunday after finding water bubbling up under it and residents of about 15 homes were temporarily evacuated, Nielson said. That problem appeared to be under control within hours, she said.

On Saturday, officials started evacuating the North Dakota Veterans Home near the Sheyenne River in the town of Lisbon.

Administrator Mark Johnson said it might be a first for the 117-year-old Veterans Home. It's protected by sandbags and a dike, but a bridge to the home is at a low spot along the Sheyenne and could be blocked by high water.

"What we've been told is that the Sheyenne is going to be the worst we've ever seen it," Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney said. "We can't take that lightly."

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