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WDAY: The News Leader

Published May 31, 2011, 08:16 AM

Some Bismarck-area residents might evacuate

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Some residents of one south Bismarck neighborhood threatened by Missouri River floodwaters got good news on Monday while residents of another were warned they might have to evacuate.

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Some residents of one south Bismarck neighborhood threatened by Missouri River floodwaters got good news on Monday while residents of another were warned they might have to evacuate.

The Burleigh County Commission voted to build a temporary levee in the Fox Island area. Around the same time, city police officers were going door to door in the Southport neighborhood telling residents to prepare to leave their homes because officials expect the area to eventually become inundated, making vehicle traffic impossible.

No evacuation was ordered, and city spokeswoman Gloria David said there was no timeline for a decision.

"At this point in time we can't speculate. We're just telling residents to prepare," she said.

There are 173 households in Southport and 104 in Fox Island, David said. The Bismarck Tribune reported that the Fox Island dike will protect about 40 homes, though County Engineer Marcus Hall gave it only a 20 percent chance of holding up over the six to eight weeks it might be needed.

"I might be on the more pessimistic side of the scale, but no one I've talked to would go higher than 50/50," he said.

Fox Island residents were told to leave Monday so the levee could be built. It's expected to be done by Thursday night.

Residents protected by the dike will be allowed into their homes during the day but not overnight, Burleigh County Emergency Manager Mary Senger said.

More than seven miles of levees are being built in Bismarck and another 3½ miles are being erected across the river in Mandan to guard against floodwaters caused by record dam releases from Missouri River reservoirs that heavy spring snowmelt and rain have swollen. As of Monday, there are 655 homes and 1,848 people who will not be protected by levees, David said.

Rain on Monday slowed work at sandbag sites, and officials said the need for volunteers was more urgent than ever with the pending reassignment of National Guard soldiers to other parts of the flood fight. The city has three sandbag sites and officials said a total of about 220 people were needed.

"There are jobs ... for people of all ages and abilities," Police Lt. Steve Kilde said.

Bismarck's goal is to have 4 million sandbags in place by Thursday. State officials have said double that total will be needed to shore up flood-prone sections.

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