WDAY: The News Leader

Published April 12, 2011, 08:30 AM

Valley City Hospital evacuates patients after higher crest prediction

Valley City, ND (WDAY TV) - After the National Weather Service added 2-feet onto its crest projection for the Sheyenne in Valley City, Mercy Hospital jumped into action. The hospital is evacuating sick people to other facilities, miles and minutes away from the rising Sheyenne River.

By: Travis Skonseng, WDAY

As you can see, the overflowing Sheyenne is creeping close to the top of its banks here in Valley City, just feet away, Mercy Hospital. This rapid rise is leading to heightened flood fears and an evacuation not seen in years.

For 85-year old Ruth Clark, being forced to evacuate is nothing new. She had to during the 2009 flood.

RUTH CLARK – Patient: “I was hoping they wouldn't have to do it again.”

The Valley City woman just had hip surgery and has been recovering at Mercy Hospital, for the past eight days.

“I'm ready to go.”

But with the threat of high water, she's suddenly leaving again. Ruth's doctor broke the news.

“And he said well I think you're supposed to get out of here, just today, just this afternoon I heard.”

The hospital isn't taking any chances. It's quickly moving 18 inpatients, all adults, home or to three hospitals in Fargo and Carrington.

KEITH HEUSER - Mercy Hospital Administrator: “This is the second time we've done it. We learned a lot of lessons in 2009 so we have the processes in place to transfer patients safely.”

The people in most need staying here long-term are loading up by ambulance, others by car.

“So because of the increase in the levels of the projection, we decided to take this action.”

Ruth's daughter-in-law is packing up her belongings before the Sheyenne River gets even higher.

CAROL CLARK - Ruth's Daughter-In-Law: “Got a message on my phone that they were evacuating the hospital so I quick came back and we're going to load her up and take her home.”

And Ruth doesn't seem to mind. She's all smiles, along the way.

“I'm glad I can go home because everything is convenient there.”

Pumps are pumping out water from the hospital parking lot. Pallets of sandbags have arrived as well. Mercy is no longer admitting inpatients. They will be brought to Fargo instead. The ER and hospital will stay open for outpatients, except for surgery.

Part of the reason the crest projection has been upped in Valley City, is because of increased flows from the Baldhill Dam. It's now flowing at 6500 cubic feet per second, 500 cfs more than earlier today. Major flooding starts at 17 feet.

This is leaving crews in a frantic race against time, here in Valley City. They have to unexpectedly add 1.5 feet of clay to five of the eight miles of levee in town. The goal is to protect the city up to 22 point 5 feet, by Saturday.

BOB WERKHOVEN - Valley City Mayor: “We're just continuing to continue what we thought maybe with yesterday's forecast, 18 to 19 we wouldn't have had to go to phase two, now we have to go to phase two.”

The city is also re-opening sandbag central tomorrow morning and Barnes County has a 24-7 hotline: 701-845-0770.

Some Valley City homeowners are frustrated Barnes County isn't helping them build sandbag dikes after the latest projection. Six properties, two miles south of town on the Kathryn Road, are stuck filling their own bags; about 40 thousand of them.

Water from the Sheyenne is flowing over County Road 21, threatening their homes. The homeowners have to pay for sand and pick up the bags to fill.

GAIL PEDERSON - Valley City Homeowner: “My son who's a high school student sandbagged for the community for four days here and we aren't getting any help from them so I think the county commission and the city commission need to sit down and work out something for next year.”

Leaders tell us this is just the county's policy. All sandbags filled in Valley City go to city infrastructure.