"Unfortunately, it's over."
That was Minot resident Bo Bolinske's observation Wednesday morning after making a final check of his home and watching the Souris River rise along the dike that normally protects his neighborhood.
"We'll just have to deal with it when we get back in. I think everybody's resolved to the fact that they've got to get out and we'll get back whenever we get back," said Bolinske.
Water troubles were apparent along West Central Avenue early Wednesday as some residents were attempting to complete the task of removing items from their homes. Most of the homes in this area suffered main floor flooding in their homes in 1969.
A few minutes later, Bolinske drove his daughter safely out of the evacuation zone.
Less than three hours later, at 12:57 p.m., the eerie sound of sirens wailed over the water of a repulsive river and echoed through mostly deserted homes. It was the sound of despair, the point of no return for many Minoters forced from the comfort of their homes and the friendly wave of their neighbors.
"Today has been a very difficult day for all of us, I can tell you that," stated Maj. General David Sprynzcynatyk, North Dakota National Guard. "When those sirens sounded our soldiers and airmen were as devastated as you."
Souris River crest in Minot now expected Sunday
BISMARCK (AP) - The National Weather Service says the Souris River crest in Minot is now expected to happen late this week.
The river is forecast to reach between 1,562 and 1,563 feet above sea level on Sunday.
Meteorologist Nathan Heinert says the historic water levels make it more difficult to predict how river flows will equate to river levels. He says the higher the water goes, the more uncertainty there is, and the crest predictions are subject to change.
The river in Minot began overtopping dikes on Wednesday. It is expected to surpass the historical 1881 level of 1,558 feet on Friday.
At a noon press briefing Wednesday, an emotional Mayor Curt Zimbelman stated, "We don't know what kind of devastation we will have. It's hard to control your emotions because it affects a lot of people."
A crowd gathered at Broadway Bridge early Wednesday afternoon. With the Souris flowing rapidly below and very near the top of dikes long abandoned to their watery fate, the bridge offered an overhead view of a neighborhood in which flood waters would soon do their dirty work.
In sharp contrast to the crowd looking west atop Broadway Bridge, contractors continued their important work east of that point. Their non-stop work was a race against time to raise a monstrous protective levee to an elevation of 1,564 feet, a level hoped to be higher than the expected historic crest of the Souris.
The river is projected to hit a level between 1,562 and 1,563 feet on Sunday.
If calculations prove correct and the work can be completed, the dike will not only keep Minot's critical north-south thoroughfare open during the impending flood, but will provide the hope that a large portion of northeast Minot will be protected as well.
At an early evening Wednesday press conference at City Hall, Public Works Director Alan Walter said the work on the vital defense would be completed and that every effort would be made to keep it functional during the duration of the flood.
Although water was topping levees at several points in Minot Wednesday, it amounted to little more than a preview of what is yet to come.
"There is a tremendous surge on the way," said Gov. Jack Dalrymple. "There's no question about that. We also know it is moving into North Dakota sooner than expected."
National Weather Service hydrologists have been challenged to come up with expected flow rates and river heights even though they have no historical data that even comes close to offering a comparison. It is difficult work.
For a time Wednesday it was feared by some that the NWS forecast had greatly underestimated the flow in the Souris. The recording gauge at Sherwood was jetting upward on computer screens, leading many to conclude that a much more massive volume of water than already projected to arrive in Minot was on the way. That was not the case. As had happened at the Sherwood location earlier this spring, the gauge was delivering a faulty reading due to the swirling and debris-filled waters of the Souris.
However, even when a proper flow verification was made by a United States Geological Survey team, the numbers were equally inconceivable.
"The bad news is, it is still a pile of water," said Alan Schlag, NWS hydrologist in Bismarck. "It is manifesting itself earlier than what we anticipated just a few days ago."
The reading at Sherwood turned out to be 21,900 cubic feet per second, about 10,000 cfs less than the distorted reading relayed by the faulty gauge. Pushed by high flows from Saskatchewan reservoirs, the Sherwood gauge was continuing to climb late Wednesday and is still expected to reach 30,000 cfs in the coming days. From there the Souris enters Lake Darling Dam before continuing on to Minot.
"The key thing here is keeping Lake Darling below 1,601.8," said Schlag.
According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Lake Darling will not overflow despite epic flows surging down the valley towards several communities below. According to Zimbelman, Lake Darling releases would reach 18,000 cfs today and 22,000 cfs on Friday. A flow of 24,000 cfs. three times what the city can expect during normal high water years, is forecast for Broadway Bridge beginning Sunday and continuing for several days to follow.
"I don't think we really know how long this is going to last or how much water is going to come," said Zimbelman. "We do know we're looking at another 7 feet."