Northeast ND preparing for flood; officials urge buying insurance
DRAYTON, N.D.—U.S. Sens. John Hoeven and Heidi Heitkamp met with local leaders and federal officials Thursday afternoon in Drayton to address preparations for spring flooding in smaller communities across northeast North Dakota.
"It's always tough to find resources in a community of 900 people," said Heitkamp, D-N.D. "I think a lot of times they feel like they've gotten left behind. ... (It's) important to realize that these small communities that help farmers are really the rockbed of the economy of our state, so they can't be left behind."
Flood risks remain highest in the northern valley and the Devils Lake Basin and are lower in the southern valley.
Grafton, Neche, Pembina and Creel Bay at Devils Lake are expected to see the most flooding, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Gregory Gust. The Grand Forks area is likely to see moderate flooding, he said, which is normal.
Officials from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency urged residents to begin preparations for flood conditions as soon as possible, such as acquiring sandbags and emergency generators, purchasing flood insurance and moving valuable possessions to high-elevation areas.
"FEMA Region Eight is taking the weather forecasts that we watch very closely, so we are already preparing for outreach throughout the state of North Dakota," said Barb Fitzpatrick, the agency's floodplains specialist for the state.
The Red River at Grand Forks was at 26.43 feet Thursday. The area's flood stage is 28 feet, and water has a 10-25 percent chance of reaching major flooding of 46 feet, according to the National Weather Service.
The level of the Park River at Grafton, N.D., was at 7.41 feet Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. The area's flood stage is 12 feet, and the river has a 25-50 percent chance of reaching major flooding by mid-April. In October 2016, Grafton received a grant from the North Dakota State Water Commission to help fund a flood risk reduction project that includes back levees and a diversion channel.
The Pembina River at Neche, N.D., has a level of 5.53 feet Thursday. The town's flood stage is 18 feet, and the river has 75-90 percent chance of major flooding levels above 20.5 feet in April.
The Red River at Pembina, N.D., reaches the flood stage at 39 feet, and the area's level was 18.55 feet Thursday. The river has a 50-75 percent chance of exceeding 49 feet in mid-April.
Devils Lake Creel Bay's current water level is 1,450.22 feet, and the water level is 75-90 percent likely to reach 1,451.75 feet by late April.
Hoeven, R-N.D., said a primary takeaway from the meeting should be awareness that flood insurance must have been purchased at least 30 days in advance of any flooding for policyholders to make claims.
"People particularly have to pay attention in terms of buying their flood insurance, that they have it in place 30 days prior to any flooding so that it's effective," he said. "So we want to make sure to get that word out."
Although Thursday afternoon's meeting primarily informed attendees about flooding in the coming spring, Hoeven also emphasized the importance of towns having long-term solutions such as Grafton's flood risk management plan.
"The question is, if the water elevations keep going up, do they then have to take another step?" he said. "Because these things take time, we've got to be doing this planning on a continuous basis."