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Crews Fighting to Contain Rising Rivers in Midwest

April 13, 2001|From Associated Press

FARGO, N.D. — Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura joined crews piling sandbags Thursday as residents of the Red River Valley fought to keep the river from overflowing emergency dikes and swamping homes and businesses.

Meanwhile, strong storms and high winds cut electricity to thousands of people in Ohio, Michigan, Nebraska and Colorado, a day after tornadoes damaged buildings and killed two people in Iowa.

Flood waters rose Thursday on the Minnesota, Mississippi, St. Croix and Red rivers in Minnesota, but the weather service revised its crest forecasts sharply downward because Wednesday's rains were not as heavy as predicted. The crest was not expected until next week.

Ventura helped out in Moorhead, Minn., across the river from Fargo. "I think what you offer them is, 'Jump in and help them,' " Ventura said. "I think that's the best encouragement."

The Red River is expected to crest at 38 feet Monday or Tuesday in Fargo, where flood stage is 17 feet. The river was at 35 feet Thursday. The river was projected to crest at Grand Forks, N.D., at nearly 50 feet by next Thursday. The river was just below 45 feet Thursday.

Areas most threatened included Fargo-Moorhead and Grand Forks-East Grand Forks on the Red River, and Montevideo and Granite Falls on the upper Minnesota River.

In eastern Minnesota, the Mississippi threatened low-lying areas from St. Paul southward, and the St. Croix was rising toward homes and businesses in and around Stillwater. This week's heavy rains have also swollen streams in southeastern Minnesota.

Elsewhere in the Midwest, Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack said he would sign a disaster declaration for Wapello and Ringgold counties, ensuring that state aid would begin flowing to towns struck by Wednesday's tornadoes.

"Here, the damage is the most severe because it involves the loss of human life," he told residents of Agency, where two women were killed when a twister struck a community food pantry.

Across the state, he said, more than 100 homes were damaged and three other people were injured.

In western Nebraska, crews battled snow and mud as they repaired downed electrical lines. A powerful storm Wednesday dropped at least 6 inches of snow and packed winds of up to 60 mph. Electrical lines blew together and shorted circuits, and wind and heavy snow snapped power poles.

Thousands of Michigan homes were without power Thursday as winds of up to 70 mph knocked down power lines and uprooted trees.

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