WDAZ: Your Home Team

Published May 23, 2013, 10:14 AM

Evacuated Cavalier residents may be allowed to return home soon

“We are seeing water recede at Renwick Dam. It’s dropped a foot since 6 p.m. Wednesday,” Pembina County Emergency Manager Andrew Kirking said this morning.

By: Kevin Bonham, Grand Forks Herald

Residents of Cavalier, N.D., learned today when they can return home.

Pembina County Emergency Manager Andrew Kirking says the water has been dropping steadily since mid-day Wednesday. He says residents will be allowed to return at 7 a.m. Friday with the understanding they might have to leave again if conditions worsen.

The community of 1,300 was evacuated Tuesday evening as a safety precaution as authorities monitored Renwick Dam, the 1961 structure holding back an unprecedented amount of water coming from the west through the Tongue River watershed.

“We are seeing water recede at Renwick Dam. It’s dropped a foot since 6 p.m. Wednesday,” Kirking said this morning.

Officials this morning checked the integrity of the dam and of an emergency levee that was built to keep floodwaters from overwhelming an emergency spillway, according to Kirking.

Cavalier schools and businesses remain closed today.

Meanwhile, a flood warning continues today for portions of northeastern North Dakota as area rivers are at or near their expected crests in the aftermath of torrential rains over the past week. The warning, effective until 3 p.m. today, includes Pembina and Walsh counties, as well as eastern Cavalier counties, according to the National Weather Service.

The North Dakota National Guard and officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource and Conservation Service have joined local officials monitoring Renwick Dam, according to Kirking.

In the meantime, all roads into Cavalier remain closed, except for authorized people.

N.D. Highways 18 and 5 remain closed in Cavalier and Highway 5 is closed in Neche and at the U.S.-Canada border crossing.

In Neche, N.D., the Pembina River at 6:45 a.m. today was at 21.6 feet, slightly lower than the peak of 21.81 feet Wednesday.

The weather service in Grand Forks forecasts the river to gradually decrease over the next several days, dropping below the major flood level of 20.5 feet sometime Saturday. However, it may be the middle of next week before it drops below the moderate flood stage of 19 feet.

In Grafton, the Park River hit 16.16 feet overnight Wednesday and appeared to be holding steady at about that level.

The weather service earlier had forecast a crest of 16.5 feet, just below the record of 16.52, set in 1950. However, the crest was lowered Wednesday to 16.4 feet.

The city of Grafton is seeking volunteers to monitor the emergency dike protecting the city. While shifts are filled until midnight, dike walkers are needed overnight and through Friday. For more information, call Grafton City Hall at (701) 352-1561.