KATHRYN, N.D. | The North Dakota National Guard said residents evacuated this small town Wednesday because of a threat to a dam on a creek, while troops were standing ready to assist evacuations in the flood-threatened town of Valley City a few miles away.
Guard Lt. Col. Rick Smith said troops went to Kathryn to help, but residents of the town of 50 to 55 people had evacuated themselves.
“All the residents are out of there safely,” Col. Smith said.
There was no evidence of major flooding by early Wednesday afternoon, although some homes had water in their yards and signs of seepage in basements.
Col. Smith said residents got a report of the Clausen Dam breaking at midmorning, but Julie Nelson, speaking for the Barnes County emergency management team, said the dam had not failed but was being eroded by water spilling over it.
“The National Guard is going to be dropping one-ton sandbags to slow down the water and divert it from town,” Miss Nelson said.
Kathryn is 17 miles south of Valley City, which is battling record high water in the Sheyenne River. The Clausen Dam is outside the town on Spring Creek, a tributary of the Sheyenne.
The Sheyenne empties into the Red River, which is expected to reach a second flood crest near Fargo this week. The Red crested at Fargo and neighboring Moorhead, Minn., late last month just short of 41 feet. The river’s second crest there is projected to reach 37 feet, which is lower than earlier forecasts.
In Valley City, the elderly, disabled and people living in low-lying areas were urged to evacuate Wednesday to make sure emergency routes were kept open. “We may need to get people in and out of there in a hurry,” Mayor Mary Lee Nielson said.
The National Guard had a Black Hawk helicopter and some high-wheeled vehicles ready in case troops are asked to assist with evacuations, Capt. Dan Murphy said. He said there were no problems with Valley City’s dikes during the night.
Capt. Murphy said the Army Corps of Engineers was closely monitoring Baldhill Dam, upstream from Valley City on the Sheyenne, trying to calculate how much water the dam can hold back in its reservoir and how much can be released without adding too much to the river.
The Sheyenne rose Monday above the 20-foot Valley City record set in April 1882. It reached 20.6 feet Tuesday, then fell back slightly during the night and was at 20.33 feet at noon Wednesday, the National Weather Service said.
Weather service hydrologist Mike Lukes, in Grand Forks, said the level depends not only on local runoff but also on the releases from the Baldhill Dam.
The flood risk to Valley City could last a month, said Greg Wiche, director of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Water Science Center in Bismarck.