Flood Update: N.Dakota alerts eased, while Manitoba ice jams spark emergency status

Red River Flood Update – March 31,2009 – North Dakota – Manitoba

Colder weather and falling snow have actuallly eased flood conditions in much of North Dakota, with many Fargo area neighborhoods lifting evacuation orders Tuesday afternoon, March 31, 2009.

Flooding in North Dakota

Flooding in North Dakota

However, the town of Selkirk, north-east of Winnipeg and at least one other town have declared emergency conditions due to increasing ice jams on the Red River. The ice jams themselves make it difficult to predict the possibility of flooding, but many neighborhoods are sandbagging, with some being told to evacuate by authorities.

The Winnipeg spillway – built in the 60’s to divert flood waters from the river, can not be opened to ease flood waters until the risk of ice jams abates. Any sheet ice, or jams entering the spillway risks more ice jams at bridge crossings and higher flood waters within Winnipeg itself.

Volunteer Update –

The CBC published today that there are increasing reports of volunteer and emergency personnel exhaustion in towns north of Winnipeg where the ice jams are widespread. There were appeals for food to fuel the small army of residents, volunteers and front-line workers primarily involved in sandbagging around properties threatened by the ice and rising waters.

Project417 has organized several volunteer teams in the past few years to respond to disaster scenes such as Hurricanes Katrina  in 2005, Ike last fall of 2008, and most recently two large evacuations in Toronto following apartment building explosions. Additionally,  as a community development coordinator  with Project417, I took part in Ontario’s Trillium emergency exercise last November in Thunder bay, along with more than 1,500 other emergency response personnel.

For first response situations, Project417 partners exclusively with the Salvation Army Emergency and Disaster Services (EDS), headquartered in Toronto. The process in preparing to respond involves staying updated on breaking news, and reporting availability to our EDS contact. As in the current crisis in Manitoba – local and then provincial resources are called in and assigned – with local emergency response personnel, often local fire departments, designated as local command and control centres and relay requests to the media for volunteers and materials that can be quickly deployed from surrounding areas. In addition, The Manitoba Emergency Management organization (EMO) is mobilized in declared states of emergency, and have in this case also requested the federal government to deploy and make ready on stand-by Canadian Armed Forces personnel.

If the local emergency or disaster situation escalates – as may be the case this week north of Winnipeg – those organizations may begin requesting assistance from neighbouring cities and provinces across Canada. Project417 has forwarded the CBC news reports of volunteers facing exhaustion to our EDS contact to ascertain whether mobilization should be escalated. Our role normally is helping man the mobile canteens, capable of serving hot meals, nutritious snacks, coffee, hot chocolate, juices, soft drinks and water – to as many as 1,500 or more per day per canteen. So right now we are ready and just waiting for the call. It would take at least 1 1/2 – 2 days to drive the vehicles out depending on road conditions. More updates will be posted here soon and  at project417.com.

North Dakota and Minnesota Red River - photo nasa.gov

North Dakota and Minnesota Red River - photo nasa.gov

More updates and sources –

Fargo Inforum – Evacuation orders lifted in some neighborhoods

Selkirk declares state of emergency

Manitoba communities plead for volunteers and food

CBC Manitoba Flood Watch 2009

Winnipeg Free Press Flood Watch

Winnipeg Free Press Breaking News

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