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Published August 13, 2011, 12:20 PM

Heavy storm floods several Jamestown streets

Jamestown, ND (Jamestown Sun) -- The storm that swept through the region Friday dropped BB-sized hail and at least 1.39 inches of rain on Jamestown.

By: Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun, WDAY

Jamestown, ND (Jamestown Sun) -- The storm that swept through the region Friday dropped BB-sized hail and at least 1.39 inches of rain on Jamestown. It also elevated already-high waterways and forced the city to pump diluted sewage into the James River. “I’m reasonably sure that most all of it — what we pumped in there — was surface water getting into (the sewer),” said Reed Schwartzkopf, Jamestown city engineer.

The storm that swept through the region Friday dropped BB-sized hail and at least 1.39 inches of rain on Jamestown. It also elevated already-high waterways and forced the city to pump diluted sewage into the James River.

“I’m reasonably sure that most all of it — what we pumped in there — was surface water getting into (the sewer),” said Reed Schwartzkopf, Jamestown city engineer.

About 75 to 90 percent of the substance pumped into the river was water, Schwartzkopf said, based on city wastewater use figures. Lift Station No. 8, located on Second Street Southwest, could not handle the amount of water infiltrating the sanitary sewers through manholes, and the overflow was pumped into the river from 4:15 to 5:45 p.m.

“When we do that, it is a last resort to try and avoid creating backup conditions into people’s homes,” Schwartzkopf said.

The city sampled the water being pumped into the river to test it and report its contents to the state Department of Health, which then determines any potential impacts to the river.

Apart from Lift Station No. 8, none of the other parts of the city’s sewer system were unusually stressed by Friday’s storm, Schwartzkopf added, and that area only had problems because the streets flooded. When water is three inches over the curb line, it can easily pour into sanitary sewers through manhole covers.

The excess water did allow some opportunities for fun, as children played in the water on the streets and the Jamestown Police Department received a report of a blue Ford Explorer driving through the streets towing “two guys on an inner tube.”

Though Friday’s rainfall hardly spells doom for the region, it added more water to the already-burgeoning waterways, said Patrick Ayd, meteorologist and assistant hydrologist with the National Weather Service.

“It definitely doesn’t help things, and if this continues, over the coming weeks and months it’ll be a growing problem and a growing source of concern,” Ayd said. “Logically, it should dry out at some point in the fall in a normal year — but as we all know, this is not a normal year.”

Areas northwest of Jamestown received even more rain, according to precipitation maps from the National Weather Service, from 1.5 inches to more than 4 inches.

Due to the sudden influx of water, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers temporarily reduced releases from the Jamestown and Pipestem dams.

Before the rain event began, the Jamestown Dam was releasing 800 cubic feet per second and the Pipestem was releasing 1,000 cfs. These quantities were reduced three times from 2:15 to 3:15 p.m. so that the combined outflow of the two dams was just 800 cubic feet per second.

The temporary decrease allowed the waterways to absorb runoff from the sudden rainstorm.

“Looking at the river gauge, it looks like we couldn’t have called it any closer,” said Jerry Bergquist, Stutsman County Emergency Manager. “Just as the river gauge started going up, it started going down.”

By 4:30 p.m., the corps had already increased the river outflows to a combined total of 1,600 cubic feet per second, and Bergquist said he anticipated they would resume the 1,800 cubic feet per second total sometime this morning.

“It’s a game of cat and mouse when you have these storms that appear almost out of nowhere, and that’s almost what happened today,” Bergquist said.

The storm did indeed seem to develop almost out of nowhere, being the product of moisture in the atmosphere and upper level air disturbances, said Tony Merriman, lead forecaster at the National Weather Service’s Bismarck office.

“It wasn’t a cold front or anything like that like we normally see,” Merriman said.

The storm seemed to have left little damage in its wake, despite reports of one-inch hail seven miles east-southeast of Marion, N.D., four miles south of Berlin, N.D., and four miles south of Montpelier, N.D.

Two tornado warnings were issued for the area, with one preliminary report of a tornado touching down 10 miles south of Courtenay, N.D. Again, no damage was reported.

Though Merriman indicated favorable weekend weather was coming temperatures hovering between the mid-50s and upper 70s, there will be a 50 percent chance of rain on Monday.

Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453

or by email at klucin@jamestownsun.com

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