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

Update: Red River Flood Watch, North Dakota, Winnipeg Manitoba

Update, Monday March 30, 2009 – Flood Watch –

Volunteer Alerts

Volunteers fill sandbags - photo CBC.ca

Volunteers fill sandbags - photo CBC.ca

North Dakota and Manitoba:

The flood watch in the Red River valley area on both sides of the U.S. Canada border continues today, but with a slight reprieve due to much colder temperatures. The sub-zero weather is slowing the runoff and freezing drainage that runs into the Red River and tributary systems and the flood crest is expected much later this week with many dikes and levees still intact. The work of residents, volunteers and thousands of National Guard and Canadian Armed Forces continues in the extra time that has resulted.

The flood watch in North Dakota has been replaced by a winter storm watch with a blizzard entering the region – which will only add to the snow and ice as melting conditions return and complicate the progress of ice jams up the river valley. Thousands still remain homeless due to flooding and evacuations ordered by authorities.

From the Winnipeg Free Press – “Ice jams aren’t just a problem for residents along the Red River. West of Winnipeg, an ice jam on a creek that flows into the Assiniboine River prompted the evacuation Sunday of 28 homes on the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation. The evacuation of the community of 2,400 was a precautionary measure, and that no homes had been flooded. Residents of the First Nation 261 kilometres west of Winnipeg were taken to Virden”.

Latest Flood Watch Updates from the Red River Valley Area –

Flooding in Fargo eases but winter storm moves in

Volunteers exhausted in battle against flood

Volunteers shift sandbagging efforts north of Selkirk

Chilly Weather Stops Flood in Tracks – Winnipeg

Residents & Volunteers Step up flood fighting preparations

Watches, warning, advisories for North Dakota

Project417 is still on call for the volunteer requirements and will publish an update later this evening.

Explosions in Two Toronto Apartment Buildings

Update: Hundreds of residents were forced to evacuate after explosions rocked two Toronto apartment complexes in separate incidents Thursday.

The first, a condominium building in the east end at Kingston Rd and Eglinton, suffered two blasts shortly after 2:30 am – one inside a utility room, followed by a Hydro transformer outside the building. More than 500 residents were evacuated to a community centre, where volunteer relief workers provided meals. More here from yesterdays post.

photo url - ctv.ca

photo url - ctv.ca

The second incident occurred early Thursday afternoon at 2369 Lake Shore Blvd., in the third-floor electrical room of a four-storey, 92-unit apartment building. [source ctv.ca] Residents were also evacuated to a nearby community centre – where about thirty stayed Thursday night. During investigation of the fire, what appeared to be marijuana grow-ops were discovered in three of the units. It’s not known whether the hydro consumed by the grow-ops contributed to the electrical room explosion.

Project417 volunteers also responded to the community centre with the Salvation Army Emergency Disaster Services team to assist residents and serve food and beverages adding to the relief assistance already being provided after the east end explosion.

Explosion at Toronto apartment – 500 residents evacuated

cbc.ca photo

cbc.ca photo

Explosion in Toronto Apartment Complex

Location: Kingston Rd – Eglinton Avenue

Update from canoe: Hundreds of residents were evacuated after an explosion this morning at an east-end apartment. Many, some wearing only their pj’s and robes, were loaded onto transit buses and taken to a community center.

The explosion, in the basement utility room, knocked out the building’s power. read more | digg story Share it and Digg it up!

More from globeandmail.com – ” More than 500 were forced to evacuate the building . Following the blast in the condominium, a Hydro Transformer outside the building also exploded. Commander O’Hallarn of the Toronto Fire Departments said the evacuation has been lengthy because it took time to set up a location to temporarily house people. Some residents have been shuttled off to the Scarborough Village Community Centre at 3600 Kingston Rd….

And cbc.ca – “Most residents were able to enter their condos to take some of their belongings and pets with them. Some spent the day at a nearby community centre, while others said they were going to stay with friends or family.

Project417 Update – Once again, Project417 responded to the disaster. Project417’s Director, Joe Elkerton, had been on call all week for the Salvation Army’s Emergency Disaster response unit (EDS), backing up the vacationing Salvation Army manager in charge.  He received the call from Toronto Fire early Thursday morning that hundreds of residents were sheltered in the east end community center. Joe quickly organized  volunteers, picked up the EDS community response vehicle, which is a fully equipped and stocked 35′  mobile canteen, and headed for the center. Throughout the day, meals, snacks and beverages were served to residents and front-line personnel manning the evacuation centre. The EDS unit of the Salvation Army – with whom Project417 partners – is a critical component of Toronto’s overall emergency and disaster services plan.

New Orleans Update – Hurricane Ike Headed for Texas Coast – Louisiana Watchful

Hurricane and storm watch alerts for Ike

Hurricane and storm watch alerts for Ike

Latest reports are that Hurricane Ike, which battered Cuba with high winds and a five story storm surge, will make landfall on the Southeast Texas coast – Galveston Island to Houston area late friday, early Saturday. Currently rated category 2, but expected to pick up steam to category 3 at least before striking, Ike is already afftecting the Louisiana gulf coast area and New Orleans with winds in excess of 70 mph [ 120kph ] . Although the center of the storm’s path is headed towards Texas, it’s effects spread across hundreds of miles of southwest U.S. gulf coastline.

I’ve been planning to head down to New Orleans for Project417 since Labour Day weekend and the drive for donations to fund the trip is doing moderately well. However, there is still a shortfall of almost $800 to cover the trip expenses. For details of the project click here or visit Project417.com .  Please donate so we can continue to help the residents of New Orleans recover from Hurricane Katrina in 2005 while they are still threatened by this years onslaught of tropical storms and hurricanes.  You can donate online by clicking on the Paypal link above or on the MissionLog home page.

Thanks!    <><  Andy

Gulf Coast New Orleans Spared as Gustav Downgraded and Passes Through

Hurricane Gustav moves inland, Hannah, Ike and Josephine move in.

Hurricane Gustav moves inland, Hannah, Ike and Josephine move in.

Thankfully, Hurricane Gustav weakened before striking the gulf coast and passing New Orleans. According to news reports, Hurricane Gustav was downgraded to Category 2 hurricane before making landfall about a hundred miles to the south west of New Orleans in the Cajun bayou country of coastal Louisiana. Although Gustav packed a punch, with strong winds up to 170 kmh, the recently repaired and improved levees in New Orleans held back the storm surge – which was about three metres less than that during Katrina. The levees held, and the newly constructed storm gates were effective. The main levee along the New Orleans Industrial Canal was tested by Hurricane Gustav though, with the waters rising to the brim of the levee walls and storm blown waters cresting the top and cascading down into residential neighborhoods. The Industrial Canal was one of the levees to fail catastrophically during Katrina and cause the devastating flooding of the Lower Ninth Ward resulting in almost total destruction of the community.

The Lower 9th of Orleans Parish was where Project417 provided relief and reconstruction on three homes for the family of Mr. Herbert Gettridge in 2006 following Hurricane Katrina. As of Monday during the passing of Gustav, there were reports of flooding in Orleans Parish streets from ankle to knee depth due to the water flowing over the tops of the levee. There were widespread power blackouts as Gustav’s hurricane winds shredded electrical power lines and toppled poles and towers with more than a million homes affected. Thank God so far the Industrial Canal levee, strengthened and upgraded in the past three years has held. In addition, the water pumps which are critical to pumping all storm drain and sewage from below-sea-level New Orleans, continued working – during Katrina, they were the first to fail. New Orleans Mayor, Ray Nagin, had earlier in the week ordered the mandatory evacuation of New Orleans, which went smoothly aided by contraflow traffic on the interstates and a well ordered parish by parish exodus, and is expected to issue the return home notices soon. Many New Orleans residents still chose to ride out the storm and hospitals were operating with skeleton staffing crews and back-up power. Reports are still coming in from southwest Louisiana where the brunt of the hurricane hit first. In addition, Bay St. Louis and Biloxi, Mississippi, both heavily damaged during Katrina, were also reporting heavy wind damage and surge flooding from Gustav.

As the Accuweather satellite photo depicts above, there is still a triple threat of hurricanes in the Atlantic from tropical storms Hannah, Ike and Josephine.

Project417 is heading to New Orleans in November, 2008 to continue re-construction in the Lower Ninth Ward. Outreach worker Andy Coats had been scheduled to visit New Orleans over the Labor Day weekend, but the news of Gustav has postponed that preparatory trip. Visit Project417 here to volunteer and donate to the recovery efforts.

[with notes from Toronto Sun, and Accuweather]

New Orleans, Gulf Coast Brace for Hurricane Gustav Monday, and Tropical Storm Hannah on its Heels

Satellite Image Hurricane Gustav - Hannah

Satellite Image Hurricane Gustav - Hannah

Hurricane Gustav will reach major hurricane status by the time it reaches the central Gulf coast early in the week. Uncertainty still remains about whether Hanna will add to the misery by late next week. The current forecast takes the eye of Gustav into the coast of Louisiana, west of the Mississippi Delta, late on Monday or early on Tuesday. However, all interests along the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle to South Texas should monitor Gustav and prepare accordingly. The heavy rain and winds from Gustav will test levees breached during Hurricane Katrina. However, the storm surge will be less across Lake Ponchratrain if the hurricane makes landfall over the southwestern coast of Louisiana.

According to the Times Picayune in New Orleans, Gov. Bobby Jindal said that Louisiana will open contraflow traffic patterns on interstates by “early, early Sunday morning”. Preparations are being made to evacuate people out of at least 19 parishes where a state of emergency has been declared.

Project417, planning a Katrina re-building visit in November hopes that Gustav and Hannah do not add to the devastation of New Orleans and the gulf coast this time.

Visit Project417 to Help with Hurricane Relief

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