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Floods Threaten Towns in Upper Midwest

June 12, 2002|From Associated Press

ROSEAU, Minn. — The rain-swollen Roseau River broke through a sandbag dike Tuesday in this northwestern Minnesota town, spilling into yards and streets.

Police ordered a handful of people living close to the floodwaters to leave; others who heeded voluntary evacuation orders were bused to Red Cross stations in a nearby town.

"We're having the flood of our lives here," Mayor Jeff Pelowski said.

Members of the Salvation Army, Army Reserve and volunteers in waders and baseball caps stacked sandbags along the river banks and around homes in this community of 2,500 people, about 10 miles south of the Canadian border.

While the river wasn't expected to crest until today, the forecast called for more rain following the 5 to 12 inches that has fallen since the weekend.

Flood stage is 16 feet in Roseau, which set its old record of 21.1 feet in 1996. The water was at 22.26 feet Tuesday, and the National Weather Service projected a crest of 23 feet.

Bryan Lundgren stood in ankle-deep water that was fast filling the yard around his one-story home, where he vowed to stay until it crept inside.

"If we get any more rain, I don't know what I can do. Let it take its toll, I guess," Lundgren said.

Gov. Jesse Ventura ordered assistance to the nine surrounding counties in Minnesota's northwest corner from the National Guard, which responded with two helicopters to shuttle empty sandbags and other supplies. The Army Corps of Engineers sent water pumps, engineers and 80,000 sandbags.

By nightfall, an army of dump trucks and more than 500 sandbaggers worked feverishly to protect a snowmobile plant from the rushing water.

"This is the economic engine for Roseau County," said Tom Tiller, chief executive and president of Polaris Inc.

"Even though a lot of people have lost their homes, the idea is at least they'll have a job."

The situation was better in Warroad, where the Warroad River went over its banks Monday but started receding early Tuesday.

About 20 households were evacuated Monday afternoon. Some businesses remained closed Tuesday, but more than half had reopened.

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