40 Days -- 40 Nights of Ordeal
It -- the flood ordeal of 1969 in Minot, actually two floods, from the Des Lacs and Mouse Rivers, one on the heels of the other- began on April 6, Easter Sunday.
And when the Mouse River again is expected to be within its banks in the city 40 days and 40 nights will have elapsed.
Corps of Engineers officials say they do not know of any other flood in the nation of a longer duration.
It was the most costly in the citys history, both property wise and in human misery. Property damage estimates run to many millions of dollars. Miraculously no human lives were lost.
The calamity was born in the warm sunshine of a beautiful Easter Day, when the Des Lacs, a North Dakota native as contrasted with the mouse which originates in Canada and returns there, began its advance into the city. The Des Lacs empties in to the Mouse above the city.
It was the first really warm day the City of Minot had enjoyed since mid-December when things turned cold and the snows came. January was one of the coldest in Minots history and February one of the wettest. Well, not really wet, because it brought white stuff stayed around and piled higher and higher because there was no thaw. In March there were a few days above freezing but the suns warmth, trapped by buildings, did bring about some thawing in Minot, a condition much less true in the basins of the Des Lacs and Mouse rivers north and west of the city.
Thus the stage was set for the flood which is not expected to end until May 15, 40 days after it had begun. If one other parallel was the Biblical story of the 40-day flood is tolerable, it is that not only were a third of the people of Minot evacuated but nearly all the animals in its Roosevelt Zoo.
Here, then, is the calendar of calamity, all as dutifully recorded in the pages of the Minot Daily News:
Jan. 17 - Lake Darling, the Upper Souris refuge, and focal point for whatever, flood protection Minot receives from the Mouse Rivers, reports a foot of snow cover, compared to 17 inches a year ago and a 32 1/2 inch winter-long average.
Jan. 28 - Milo Hoisveen, state engineer and North Dakota representative on the International Souris (Mouse) River Board of Control, predicts Mouse runoff to be at least one third above normal.
Jan. 30 - Fifteen inch average snow cover in Mouse River Basin estimated by John Dahl, manager of the Upper Souris Refuge at Lake Darling. Dahl predicts runoff to be less than one tenth of average annual runoff.
Feb. 15 - Manitoba Department of Resources begins annual snow runoff study.
Feb. 22 - Based on Canadian findings and February snows, Dahl ups estimate of runoff from Saskatchewan into Lake Darling to about 18,000 acre feet compared to 12,000 acre feet last year, lowest since 1962. Survey showed 10 inches of snow around Weyburn, 11 inches at Estevan, 15 inches in Moose Mountain area and 12 inches at Oxbow.
March 7 - Charles Truax, Ward County superintendent of highways warns flood perils in Des Lacs Valley, especially if there is warm rain which could melt present snow faster than anything. St. Paul District Corps of Army Engineers declares extensive flooding can occur over sections of the Mouse River Basin. Corps reported it learned on March 4 that snow in the Mouse River Basin contained three to six inches of moisture.
March 13 - Dahl advised by Canadian officials of heavy snow accumulation in Moose Mountain and Long Creek Basins. Saskatchewan begins release of 20,000 acre feet from Boundary Dam reservoir on Long Creek to make room for runoff from that tributary to the Mouse. Dahl plans to open Lake Darling gates as soon as river channel thaws enough to permit reasonable flow.
March 25 - Boundary Reservoir releases of March 13 arrive at Sherwood gauge above Lake Darling but only as a small trickle. Rest freezes in river channel. Dahl gets estimate of 160m00 acre feet for Saskatchewan runoff, greatly enhanced by late February and March snows. River at Darling remains frozen and no water has been released.
March 28 - Basin gets snow storm but not in heavy amounts. Temperature drops to 7 below at Minot, even colder in other parts of basin.
April 3 - Flood watch operation charted by U.S. Weather Bureau for Red River. No urgency has yet been indicated for the Mouse by any government agency.
April 4 - Heart River goes over its banks at Mandan, first of states rivers to flood.
April 5 - Temperature climbs into high 40s in parts of Des Lacs basin but Saskatchewan points remain cool.
April 6 - A beautiful Easter Sunday dawns. Overnight temperatures at Minot just touched the freezing point but sun attacked frost early. By mid morning water was running rapidly in the streets. Even through much of Minots snow had melted, there was enough left to fill with water some curbs on downhill streets. Upstream on the Des Lacs basin the melt was furious, the runoff best described as torrential. By early afternoon, it was obvious the Des Lacs would flood. Diking started in Minot. Men from the Minot Air Force Base moved in to help.
April 7 - Flood Waters rising in west Minot as Des Lacs runoff continues to increase, rising six feet at Foxholm to set new record on gauge there. Four homes at Burlington evacuated, homes in additions west of the city diked and some move out. First Minot home abandoned.
April 8 - Eighteen more Minot families leave their homes as Mouse River rises 6 feet. Streets in low areas throughout city flooding.
April 9 - Many more leaving homes, damage moving from west to east in city. Diking and sandbagging in full swing in low areas, heaviest in Perkett school and Oak Park areas in western Minot and Robindale Trailer Court and Green Valley in the eastern part of the city.
April 10 - A hundred more Minot homes evacuated, brining total to 300. Thousands of volunteers and dozens of trucks engaged in evacuating people, working on diking and sandbagging. Broadway, Minots most heavily traveled thoroughfare, goes under water just north of the viaduct. Second main north-south road, Third Street East, also gets water north of overpass.
April 11 - Crest reached during night at 17.03 feet on Big Four gauge west of city with flow of 2,950 cubic feet a second. Charles Truax, Ward County superintendent of highways, makes estimate of flood damage for Gov. William L. Guy at $3,250,000. Guy, Sen. Quentin N. Burdick, D-N.D., N.D., tour flood zone, pledge support to Minot for getting flood help in Washington.
April 12 - River beings to drop at Minot but Rep. Thomas Kleppe, R-N.D., touring Minot flood area, discloses report from Crops which shows new flood coming from Mouse River. Kleppe said Corps predicted crest would top that of Des Lacs by at least a foot. As day wore on reports upstream in Saskatchewan keep getting worse. By late afternoon, Corps predicted flood of 5 -6 feet above Des Lacs crest. In the evening Mayor C. D. Johnson called emergency meeting of Corps, Air Force, National Guard, Office of Emergency Preparedness, city and county officials and news media for a planning sessions. Out of that session came plans for establishing central flood control center, dovetailing of activities, setting up information center, priorities for diking, the zones and the priorities for evacuation. One third of the citys people to be removed an area roughly bounded on the north by Ninth Avenue North in the western two-thirds of Minot and then on Eighth and Seventh Avenues Northeast. On the south the area was bounded by the Great Northern tracks in the western part of the city and Soo Line tracks in the eastern part. Mouse River crests at Sherwood at 10,600 cubic feet a second, highest since were taken there.
April 13 - Biggest evacuation in North Dakota history begins. An estimated 500 trucks and 15,000 workers being evacuation and diking operations simultaneously, beginning around midnight. Area to be stricken looks like battle zone. Ice jam discovered at Roche Percee, Sask., holding back river flows. Downstream river drops four feet. Evacuation centers established at Edison, Jim Hill, and North Hill Schools in Minot.
April 14 - Lake Darling goes over spillway. An estimated 1,700 homes in Minot now evacuated in almost unbelievable operation. Where did all those people and all that furniture find shelter? Hardly a family out of flood zone didnt share living facilities with others and offer basements and garages for storing belongings. Mayor rules out martial law, saying looting, vandalism at a minimum. Ice jam at Roche Percee breaks up smoothly and water rises gradually downstream from it. Raising of Broadway completed. Total of 30,000 cubic yards of dirt hauled in, packed, leveled, raising thoroughfare for nine blocks up to a height of nine feet where it meets the viaduct. Dikes being built at four schools, city wells, lift stations.
April 15 - Delay in crest at Minot until April 22-26 predicted because of ice jam and other factors. Evacuation of nearly 12,000 approaching final phase. Nine areas evacuated in order by National Guard, and the Air Force. Mayor C.D. Johnson estimates about half of job was done privately. Farmers drove trucks in from a wide area to help their city cousins and others came from nearby towns. Need help, theyd ask, and proceed to load furniture on their trucks. Young people from both Minot and MAFB helped by the thousands in moving, diking, sand bagging.
April 16 - Estimate of crest level at Minot lowered to four feet above Des Lacs runoff crest and seven feet above flood stage. Peak flow expected at Minot was dropped from 10,000 to 8,500 cubic feet a second. Poor records on river handicaps Crops and Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife officials in making estimates. Ice at Lake Darling scars face of dam. Fast flow over dams spillway erodes downstream end. Corps keeps constant vigil and gravel added regularly to protect both face and spillway.
April 17 - River reaches and passes 17 foot crest of Des Lacs runoff with estimated rise at rate of 3.6 feet daily. Corps predicts crest will not top 21 feet which is 4 feet over Des Lacs runoff peak. But a longer period of high water in the city is anticipated based on leveling off of high flow from Canada.
April 18 - Broadway remains only link between north and south Minot. Third Street Northeast, Sixth Street Underpass, Sixteenth Street Southwest all under water. Tight restrictions on Broadway eliminates all but emergency travel. Others going from north to south forced to take 20-mile detour east of the city. River goes to 18.7 feet. Total Canadian runoff estimate reduced from 300,000 to 230,000 acre feet. Feverish pace of diking continues and pumps at work throughout the valley. Minot included in President Nixons disaster designation in North Dakota.
April 19 - Minot dubbed Venice of North as river crests at 20.44 feet, 3.44 feet over Des Lacs runoff crest and 6.44 over flood stage. Flow peaks at 6,300 cubic feet per second, well down from estimate but river channel becomes near predicted crest because of extensive diking reducing areas in the channel. Only 200 of nearly 12,000 displaced Minoters show up in shelters at three schools. Others are housed at homes of friends, in motels, hotels, vacant apartments, vacant trailers, and some leave town to stay temporarily with relatives or friends. Maj. Gen. Frederick J. Clarke, newly appointed chief of the Corps of Army Engineers heads inspection team checking on Mouse River flood.
April 20 - Water holds bout even at Minot. Prediction of second crest from surge of water following ice jam breakup at Roche Percee is dropped. Flooding in Saskatchewan and leveling action of Lake Darling, even though full, flattened crest, Corps and FWS officials report. Flow from Lake Darling, at 6,000 cfs is slightly off from peak but holding steady.
April 21 - Water at Minot down one tenth foot from peak.
April 22 - Dike in culvert in Soo Line grade breaks, letting wetter into Westfield, Oak Park, Dakota Homes and First Additions, flooding 100 homes. Most of them had been flooded by Des Lacs waters earlier but 20 new homes hit. Repair to dike made and pumping of water begun.
April 23 - Carl Stephan of Bureau of Sport Fisheries and Wildlife estimates Mouse River will be back in its banks by May 15, making the flood duration 40 days.
April 24 - Corps of Engineers estimates flood damage in Minot at $10 million, a figure many local observers feel will prove far too low.
April 26 - Since cresting a week ago, river at Minot has dropped only 2.28 inches.
April 28 - Paradox of Minots flood with citys continuing water supply shortage outlined to Senate Public Works Appropriation Subcommittee by Sen. Milton R. Young, R-N.D. Senator plans to seek expedited flood control program plus later authorization for water supply project.
April 29 - River drops eight inches in 24 hours at Minot but accelerated rate is not maintained and returns to snails pace of inch or two daily. Small Business Administration office established at Minot estimates upwards of 1,000 loans to be made to homeowners and businesses totaling more than $3 million.
April 30 - Housing and Urban Development office established at Minot says 60 percent of flooded homes have first floor damage.
May 1 - Flow into Lake Darling continues to drop sharply. Dams gates closed from 10 feet to 7 feet but water still pours over spillway. Utilities restored to 500 homes on the fringe of flood zone.
May 2 - Corps of Army Engineers advances $27.4 million flood plan for city calling for dam at Burlington and channel widening and straightening through city and on both sides of it. Latter job, costing $4 million, would be expedited.
May 4 - Flow over Lake Darling spillway ceases at 4 p.m.
May 5 - Lake Darling Flow through gates reduced from 3,000 to 2,000 cubic fee per second.
May 6-15 - Pace of water recession speeds. Long cleanup job beginning. Prediction is that river will be in its channel by mid-month.