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Flooding threatens closure of Valley City bridges

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Dickinson, 58602
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

VALLEY CITY (AP) -- All but one of Valley City's 11 bridges will have to close if the Sheyenne River reaches record levels, Barnes County officials say.

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The National Weather Service is predicting the Sheyenne will rise to 22 feet in Valley City by Tuesday, or two feet higher than the record 20 feet set in 1882. Flood stage is 15 feet.

Emergency Manager Kim Franklin said the river was at 17.3 feet on Friday morning and two bridges had been closed. She said only the bridge on the city's Eighth Avenue, leading to Interstate 94, will be usable if the river rises above 20 feet.

Franklin said she believes the weather service's prediction of a 22-feet crest by Tuesday is accurate.

"We're pretty sure it will happen," she said Friday.

Barnes County officials are offering residents a chance to evacuate because of plans to close two bridges south of Valley City, though some residents may decide to stay and protect their homes, Franklin said.

North Dakota National Guard spokeswoman Deb Lien said about 90 soldiers will be available to help the county and Valley City.

The Army Corps of Engineers says releases from the Bald Hill Dam have been increased to make room for more water. A dike has been placed around Valley City's Mercy Hospital.

The Valley City Fire Department plans to station fire engines around the city of about 6,000, to try to avoid traffic congestion delays in case of emergencies. Police Chief Dean Ross said most drivers are being cautious and considerate, but a few have ignored signs and have been driving irresponsibly.

Ross reported the city has ordered 50 'Road Closed' signs, and still needs more traffic control volunteers.

"Our traffic controllers are doing a really great job," Ross said, "but they're getting tired and are not always nice. They get a little irritable, and they may yell at you if you're not listening. I'm behind them all the way."

Mayor Mary Lee Nielson said more than 500,000 sandbags and earthen dikes have been placed throughout the city to protect it from floodwaters. The flood-fighting measures began almost a month ago, she said.

"We are feeling confident," Nielson said. "Everything is in place to the point where we wait and see."

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