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Published May 26, 2011, 02:39 PM

Bismarck Zoo Closes; Sandbag Volunteers Sought

Zoo animals were being evacuated in Bismarck on Thursday and the National Guard was beefing up its presence with hundreds more soldiers as the Missouri River continued rising.

By: Associated Press,

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Zoo animals were being evacuated in Bismarck on Thursday and the National Guard was beefing up its presence with hundreds more soldiers as the Missouri River continued rising.

Nearly 250 guardsmen reported for flood duty on Wednesday and nearly 600 more were being added Thursday, the Guard said. Another 30 soldiers were on dike patrol in the Minot area to the north, where Souris River flooding is a concern.

"We are prepared to offer any assets and personnel we have available to mitigate the effects of summer flooding across the state," Maj. Gen. Dave Sprynczynatyk, the state Guard commander, said in a statement. "Our guardsmen bring a wealth of experience after participating in emergency response operations for flooding the past three springs."

Soldiers earlier this spring spent about a month on flood operations across the state, with nearly 1,500 soldiers helping at least one day, most of them in eastern North Dakota. Gov. Jack Dalrymple called out the Guard again early this week in response to the river rises in central North Dakota.

The Missouri River has been swollen by spring snowmelt and heavy rain, and releases from Garrison Dam will be at record levels. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said he planned to bring top Army Corps of Engineers officials including the commander of the agency's northwest region to Bismarck on Friday to outline flood response plans.

Officials and residents are preparing for a river rise of at least 2 feet above flood stage in Bismarck. The most immediate threat is to property in southwest Bismarck, including Dakota Zoo.

The zoo closed Wednesday afternoon and could remain closed for several weeks, Director Terry Lincoln said. Animals were being moved to other zoos in the Dakotas.

City officials on Thursday put out another call for volunteers to help sandbag, and used city buses to transport volunteers to two "Sandbag Central" sites. Bismarck was getting help with equipment and sandbags from Fargo and neighboring Moorhead, Minn., which have battled major Red River flooding the past three springs.

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