North Dakota Works to Prevent Dam Break

KATHRYN, N.D. (AP) - A convoy of trucks, excavators, bulldozers
and backhoes moved in to fortify a seeping dam Thursday in eastern
North Dakota as engineers and National Guard troops worked to save
a tiny town that would flood if the dam fails.

Water was flowing like a miniature waterfall around a corner of
the earthen Clausen Springs Dam, which protects the town of
Kathryn, downhill and about six miles east. The water was eating
through walls of the grass-lined spillway built to handle the extra
water volume along a tributary of the flooding Sheyenne River.

If the dam fails, state Water Commission engineer Bruce
Engelhardt said, "you'd have a large pulse of water going
downstream."

Kathryn's 55 residents evacuated on Wednesday. The town was
mostly deserted except for a handful of National Guard soldiers,
surveyors and heavy equipment parked on Main Street. The Sheyenne
Saloon, facing Main Street, the Rusty Spur Cafe and the huge grain
elevator at the end of the street were closed.

A few residents stopped by Thursday afternoon to check on their
homes. Gordy Madland, wearing high wading boots, pulled his pickup
in his garage and took time for a beer and cigarette.

"I was very nervous yesterday. I feel a lot better today," he
said. "I really started racing yesterday, I mean, there could be a
wall of water coming down. I guess I was the last one to get out of
here."

Madland, 68, spent the night at a campground. He praised the
Army Corps of Engineers for helping protect Kathryn. "It's a nice
quiet town," he said. "It's peaceful."

Overnight, water began seeping past one-ton sandbags that troops
had laid Wednesday. National Guard Lt. Col. Rick Smith said a
quick-reaction force using night-vision goggles began dropping more
sandbags at about 3 a.m. Guard officials said later in the day they
had placed about 100 one-ton sandbags on a section of the dam and
planned about 60 more.

The dam, roughly about 700 feet long, is one of a number of
flooding hot spots around North Dakota, where rivers swollen from
heavy snow and fall rain have been rising since late March. The
flooding has shut down all but the main roads in a number of
counties.

In Barnes County, which includes the communities of Valley City
and Kathryn, Sheriff Gene Bjerke said most of the township roads
are washed out.

"The water is off most of them, but with heavy traffic all
over, they're really taking a beating," he said.

The Sheyenne River has flooded parts of Valley City, about 17
miles north of Kathryn, and forced evacuations in the town of
Lisbon to the southeast. Valley City Mayor Mary Lee Nielson said
the flood danger could persist for weeks.

Darren Bjornson had help from family members and friends in
sandbagging the house belonging to his wife's grandmother, Hazel
Edlund, in Valley City. Bjornson said he was going to wait out the
floodwaters, after adding about 3 feet of sandbags around the
house.

"She has lived here for 35 years," he said of Edlund. "And
this is the first time we've ever had to do this."

The Red River also was flooding some areas in Canada's Manitoba
province to the north. Randy Hull, emergency preparedness
coordinator in Winnipeg, declared a state of emergency affecting
about 240 homes on the riverside of the primary dike that protects
the city.

Hull said Thursday the declaration is a precaution that allows
officials to respond quickly if evacuations are needed or if they
have to gain access to properties.


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