Little Missouri causes big problems
Rising water in the Little Missouri River has local officials preparing for the worst and praying the predictions are right. Officials say everyone should be alright if the water levels remain consistent with the forecast.
The flooding so far has closed a state park and popular golf course, swamped out a summer camp, required sandbagging around Medora and forced the formulation of an evacuation plan in Marmarth.
Medora was at the second-highest recorded water level in history Tuesday and Marmarth was at its fifth-highest.
Water levels surpassed forecasted levels throughout Tuesday. National Weather Service Meteorologist Janine Vining said it is tough to make predictions because the conditions are so rare.
"In this high of water levels you don't have records and data to compare to," she said.
Medora's water level Tuesday afternoon was only lower than the 1947 crest of 20.50 feet. At 1:15 p.m., the National Weather Service reported the waterway had risen to 19.84 feet, a few inches from the major flooding level of 20 feet. The NWS expected to see the river rise to 19.90 feet in the following days, but Billings County Emergency Manager Pat Rummel said
he wouldn't be surprised if it rose above expectation.
"The rate of increase is pretty significant yet," he said Tuesday morning. "The actual rise has been more than their previous predictions."
Medora City Council and Billings County Commission declared a flood emergency Sunday and began building dikes and placing sandbags early Monday morning, Rummel said.
"The town itself is in jeopardy at 19 feet," Rummel said, adding that the primary areas of concern have been secured.
"They have it pretty well covered," he said. "The problem areas are getting the attention they need right now."
Dikes were built to support water up to 23 feet along the river to protect Medora, Rummel said.
The community sought help from the Billings County Fire Department, Stark County Emergency Management and Billings County road crews, who constructed earth dikes and transported about 10,000 sandbags from Valley City.
Due to the rise in water and dike construction, Sully Creek State Park south of Medora and westbound Interstate 94 exit 24 are closed until water recedes.
Just south of Medora, Badlands Ministries summer camp is on the brink of total submersion. Access roadways are closed and the grounds can only be reached by boat. Director Brent Seaks said the buildings have remained safe so far and should be safe as long as the river does not reach 21 feet.
"We remain cautiously optimistic," he said. "We think we have this thing beat and then the prediction goes up."
At risk are multiple buildings including churches, dorms and a retreat house with an estimated price tag of $1 million that is currently under construction. It is not covered under insurance because the project is still underway, Seaks said.
Camps are scheduled to begin June 12 and Seaks said the camp will host campers no matter how high the river rises. But if the water goes up much more, it will be a lot more work.
Farther south in the city of Marmarth, Slope County Emergency Manager Richard Frederick said the city has plans in place should they need to evacuate the residents.
The plan would be enacted if the area would reach major flooding stages of 23 feet. The NWS reports the crest in Marmarth was Monday at 21.03 feet and should consistently decline over the next day.
Frederick said the plan was put in place because it is better to be safe than soaked.
Heavy rains in the area might still be feeding into the river, Frederick said, but the water level dropped consistently throughout the day in Marmarth.
Frederick said the worst has likely past for Marmarth.
There were no reported injuries due to river flooding.