If you took a "big picture" view of the handling of the flooding disasters in Fargo and Bismarck, most people would have to agree there have been some problems, but a fair amount of the work has been addressed competently by the city and county governments involved, by the National Guard soldiers and by the volunteers. Most rational people would have to agree the areas not handled competently were handled VERY incompetently. I could talk about what a great job the volunteers did. I could talk about what a great bunch of neighbors we all have. I could talk about the work of the National Guard, the Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers. I could talk about the amazing job KFGO in Fargo has done over the past week or so. But I choose not to talk about those things. At some point, someone is going to need to ask the question: "What wasn't handled well? (so far)" I pick me. I pick now. Consider this a "first installment."
First, these flooding events should be viewed as an opportunity for our state and local officials to take a look at what a dismal failure our wetlands and water management have been. We would not be having major neighborhoods in towns like Linton, Beulah, Bismarck, Fargo and Devils Lake being overrun with water if we weren't eliminating all the pooling areas for water around our state and converting our landscape into a system of downhill express lanes for water. I predict we'll soon have a "blue ribbon task force" appointed to whitewash the real problems our state has in water management. Stay tuned.
Second, I feel bad for the smaller towns dealing with the flooding problems. With all of our state's resources being focused on Fargo and Bismarck, the folks in Beulah, Linton and a lot of smaller towns all over the state must feel like second-class citizens.
Third, how 'bout a round of applause for North Dakota's Department of Emergency Services. Twice in less than a week DES broadcast disaster announcements over at least some of North Dakota's radio and TV stations, telling us the sky was falling. The first incident was when DEC cut in to tell the citizens of Bismarck the northern ice jam on the Missouri River had broken and a wall of water was headed towards the south ice jam; all of south Bismarck should be evacuated. This was simply untrue. There were eye witnesses on the scene at Double Ditch, North of Bismarck, where the ice jam was located, and they were reporting to the radio news folks -- live, on air (I was listening) -- that the ice jam was not moving at all. This false announcement created fear and panic, and was completely uncalled for. Nobody has explained how and why this happened.
The second was the announcement last week Wednesday that the eastbound lanes of traffic on Interstate 94 between Jamestown and Fargo had been closed because they were preparing for the "voluntary evacuation of Fargo." I'm told the eastbound lanes were closed, but they were closed because of/after the DES announcement was made. There was, in fact, no "voluntary evacuation" of Fargo.
I was listening to KFGO radio when DES cut in to announce the voluntary evacuation of Fargo. It was quite dramatic. It happened in the middle of a press conference where city officials were talking about what the City's plan was. They made no mention of a "voluntary evacuation" at the meeting, and -- it seems -- knew nothing about a "voluntary evacuation." When the disaster announcement finished, I listened to KFGO's news guy -- former state Senator Joel Heitkamp -- express his frustration with the conflicting messages.
It's becoming more and more clear this second screw-up by the executive branch was caused by incompetence by someone under Governor John Hoeven's control. It's also fairly clear Hoeven was pressuring Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker to evacuate the city.
The closed-door meeting to talk about whether to do a large-scale evacuation took place at the height of Fargo’s flood battle late last week. The discussion became heated at times, with Fargo leaders striving to convince state and federal authorities the city’s defenses were sound, said Vice Mayor Tim Mahoney.
Mahoney said the governor and FEMA wanted the city to strongly consider a large evacuation.
Don Canton, a spokesman for Hoeven, said state and federal officials met with Fargo leaders to evaluate the “advisability” of a citywide evacuation.
“I’m sure there was a discussion of mandatory evacuation, but that’s not what was agreed on and executed,” Canton said.
He said the agreement reached, that vulnerable adults would leave and voluntary evacuations would be done in some areas, “obviously worked.”
Mahoney said Fargo already was in the process of evacuating vulnerable individuals before the meeting with state and federal officials.
He said that move apparently prompted someone to “pull the trigger” on a larger-scale evacuation, because parts of interstates 29 and 94 were closed Friday, the day before the Red River crested in Fargo at 40.82 feet.
Mahoney said he called the governor’s office about the highway closings and was told the matter would be fixed.
And it was, said Lance Gaebe, the governor’s deputy chief of staff.
Gaebe said the interstate shutdown was the result of a glitch in communication between emergency management officials and the department of transportation.
“They basically said to prepare to put out an announcement in case we need to do this, and it got released as if it were happening,” Gaebe said.
So now not only is it clear the Governor's people were incompetent in handling the disaster emergency announcement, but it's also clear they lied about what was going on behind closed doors in Fargo. They claimed an agreement was reached, during the meeting, to evacuate vulnerable folks, even though the City's plan to do that was already in motion BEFORE the meeting.
We're in the middle of dealing with a disaster. This is not the time to lie to the media. This is not the time to lie to the public.
And why was this meeting taking place "behind closed doors?" Don't we have an "open meetings" law here in North Dakota? Maybe the "closed meeting" status can be excused because we were in the middle of an emergency, but I'd like to think a record of the meeting was made so future administrators can learn from these clear mistakes made by Governor Hoeven and his staff.
Bismarck Tribune editor John Irby took after Congressman Earl Pomeroy in an editorial last week. He was critical of Pomeroy because Pomeroy was expressing his passionate disgust with the bonuses being paid to AIG employees. Pomeroy was expressing the disgust most of us felt and feel about the AIG bonuses, but Irby perhaps thought Pomeroy should sit on his hands. I'm kind of glad Pomeroy spoke his mind.
It's interesting that the Fargo Forum has an editorial that talks about the pressure put on Fargo's mayor by FEMA suggesting the possible evacuation of the city, but the editorial doesn't mention -- at all -- the pressure from the Forum's publisher's best friend, Hoeven, or the lies Hoeven's office told to the media and to the people. Gosh, I wonder why. Maybe they're next door neighbors.
I'm waiting to see whether the Tribune's Irby has the stones to write a piece critical of the Governor's attempts to force the evacuation of Fargo and the DES screw-ups for which Hoeven is ultimately responsible. I'm anxious to see Irby criticize the Governor and his staff for lying to the public and to the media during these crises. If Irby does, it will be the first thing he's ever written that's been critical of Governor John Hoeven (R).
I'm sure he'll find a way to blame it all on Pomeroy, Conrad and/or Dorgan.
This is part VII of the North Dakota flood news aggregator. Click on these links forPart I(Tuesday),Part II(Wednesday),Part III(Thursday),Part IV(Friday),Part V (Saturday),Part VI(Sunday),Part VII(Monday) andPart VIII(Tuesday). There are lots of photos and video on Parts I, II, III, IV, V, VI and VII. I'm putting the NEWEST ENTRIES AT THE TOP.
44. ABC news -- Squirrel saved from swollen Red River (with video)
This is part VII of the North Dakota flood news aggregator. Click on these links for Part I(Tuesday),Part II(Wednesday), Part III(Thursday), Part IV (Friday), Part V (Saturday), Part VI (Sunday), Part VII (Monday) and Part VIII (Tuesday). There are lots of photos and video on Parts I, II, III, IV, V and VI. I'm putting the NEWEST ENTRIES AT THE TOP.
95. ND National Guard (YouTube) -- South Dakota Army National Guard Soldiers activated to assist the North Dakota National Guard with flood-fighting efforts in Fargo use plastic sheeting to cover dikes in the area. A blizzard is moving in, and strong winds from the northeast work damaging the dikes. The plastic is an additional protective measure. (By videographer Master Sgt. Eric Johnson, 119th Wing, North Dakota Air National Guard)
94. Maxi with Concordia football team (YouTube) -- The team went up to Fargo to help fill sandbags and Mike Max talks to them about their experience.
93. Fargo Flood 2009 (YouTube) -- A little slide show dedicated to everyone involved in the efforts pertaining to the flood of 2009
92. WCCO (YouTube) -- From a plane over Fargo-Moorhead, you get a good view of the extent of the Red River Floods.
91. flood (YouTube) -- sindeevee
90. WCCO (YouTube) -- John Wanamaker reporting from Fargo
89. NY Times -- Snow could complicate flood recovery
87. Coast Guard Flood Rescues (YouTube) -- Coast Guard crews responding to the massive flooding in North Dakota have been busy rescuing stranded residents. To date, the Coast Guard has rescued 93 people. See more DoD videos athttp://dodvclips.mil
86. 2009 Fargo/Moorhead Flood (YouTube) -- Flight over Fargo/Moorhead on 3/28/09
85. EV helps with Sandbagging 1 (YouTube) -- Eagle Valley (Minnesota) students and staff help with sandbagging efforts in Fargo. (Part 1
84. Fargo Flood Report 3/30/09 10 am (YouTube) --
83. Fargo Flood 2009 (YouTube) --
82. Fargo Forum -- Oak Grove continues clean-up, meets with FEMA
42. YouTube (DODvClips)--Flood levels in North Dakota begin to drop but forecasters say the waters remain at record high levels and days of work remain ahead. See more DoD videos at http://dodvclips.mil
41. YouTube (Associated Press) -- U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan of North Dakota talks about preparations as residents of Fargo brace for a record flood. (March 27)
11. WKBT TV (YouTube) (WI) -- Three members of the Scenic Bluffs Chapter of the Red Cross head out Saturday to help
10. Coast Guard (YouTube) -- FARGO AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, N.D. Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Nowiki, from Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans, speaks about being deployed to the Red River Valley flood March 28, 2009. Two HH-65 Dolphin helicopter crews from Traverse City, Mich., and one from New Orleans deployed to North Dakota in response to the floods. Working with state and local agencies, helicopter crews have conducted numerous rescues throughout the city of Fargo and the surrounding communities. (U.S. Coast Guard video/Petty Officer 3rd Class Erik Swanson)
9. Associated Press (YouTube) -- The Red River breached a dike Sunday and sent water flowing into buildings at a school campus in Fargo in an episode the mayor called a "wakeup call" for a city that needs to be vigilant for weaknesses in levees. (March 29)
8. Associated Press (YouTube) -- Fargo's fears of a catastrophic flood eased Saturday with word that the Red River apparently crested at lower-than-expected levels, but residents still have much to worry about.(March 28)
7. Associated Press (YouTube)-- Not even a record flood can stop love. Nathan and Brittany Aakre said their vows Saturday in Fargo, North Dakota, surrounded by friends, family and a whole lot of water. (March 28)
UPDATED MARCH 12, 2010, AT THE END OF THIS BLOG POST
Representative Dave Weiler (R-Bismarck) was arrested over the weekend. The only media carrying the story so far today is KFYR television. Here's the story.
A North Dakota lawmaker is out on bond after being arrested this weekend. State Representative Dave Weiler was arrested early Saturday morning after police say he pushed down his wife in their driveway. Weiler was arrested for simple assault domestic violence, a misdemeanor. His wife had minor injuries. Weiler is a Republican who represents District 30 in Bismarck.
This is part VI of the North Dakota flood news aggregator. Click on these links forPart I(Tuesday),Part II(Wednesday),Part III(Thursday),Part IV(Friday),Part V (Saturday),Part VI(Sunday),Part VII(Monday) andPart VIII(Tuesday). There are lots of photos and video on Parts I, II, III & IV. I'm putting theNEWEST ENTRIES AT THE TOP.
74. The Standard -- Snowstorm set to batter North Dakota flood defenses
73. KSPR.com -- Missouri Guard heads to North Dakota
72. YouTube (jennalee02) --
71. DaveArntson.com -- Photojournalist's pictures from Fargo. These are worth looking at.
70. YouTube (cman024) -- Wahpeton Flood 2009 (Richland County, ND)
This is part V of the North Dakota flood news aggregator. Click on these links forPart I(Tuesday),Part II(Wednesday),Part III(Thursday),Part IV(Friday),Part V (Saturday),Part VI(Sunday),Part VII(Monday) andPart VIII(Tuesday). There are lots of photos and video on Parts I, II, III & IV. I'm putting theNEWEST ENTRIES AT THE TOP.
3. Xacerbated (YouTube) -- Too many volunteers? (Really?)
2. JennaLee02 (YouTube)
1. WhiteHouse.gov -- President Obama discusses the North Dakota/Minnesota flooding in his weekly radio address:
Remarks of President Barack Obama
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Even as we face an economic crisis which demands our constant focus, forces of nature can also intervene in ways that create other crises to which we must respond – and respond urgently. For the people of North and South Dakota and Minnesota who live along rivers spilling over their banks, this is one such moment.
Rivers and streams throughout the region have flooded or are at risk of flooding. The cities of Fargo and neighboring Moorhead are vulnerable as the waters of the Red River have risen. Thousands of homes and businesses are threatened.
That is why, on Tuesday, I granted a major disaster declaration request for the State of North Dakota and ordered federal support into the region to help state and local officials respond to the flooding. This was followed by an emergency declaration for the State of Minnesota. And we are also keeping close watch on the situation in South Dakota as it develops.
The Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency continue to coordinate the federal response. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano is helping to oversee federal efforts and she remains in close contact with state officials. Acting FEMA administrator Nancy Ward has been in the region since yesterday to meet with folks on the ground and survey the area herself.
In addition, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is assisting in the emergency construction of levees. The Coast Guard is aiding in search and rescue efforts while the Department of Defense is helping to move people and supplies. Members of the National Guard have been activated and are on the scene as well.
Hospitals and nursing homes in the area are being evacuated and residents in poor health or with special needs are being transported to higher ground. Teams from the Department of Health and Human Services are aiding in this work. And the Red Cross is in place to provide shelter and supplies for folks in need.
It is also important for residents in these states to remain vigilant in monitoring reports on flood crests and to follow instructions from their state and local leaders in the event that evacuations become necessary.
My administration is working closely with Governors John Hoeven, Mike Rounds and Tim Pawlenty. And I’ve been meeting with Senators Byron Dorgan, Kent Conrad, and Amy Klobuchar, as well as Congressmen Earl Pomeroy and Collin Peterson, to pledge my support. I will continue to monitor the situation carefully. We will do what must be done to help in concert with state and local agencies and non-profit organizations – and volunteers who are doing so much to aid the response effort.
For at moments like these, we are reminded of the power of nature to disrupt lives and endanger communities. But we are also reminded of the power of individuals to make a difference.
In the Fargodome, thousands of people gathered not to watch a football game or a rodeo, but to fill sandbags. Volunteers filled 2.5 million of them in just five days, working against the clock, day and night, with tired arms and aching backs. Others braved freezing temperatures, gusting winds, and falling snow to build levees along the river’s banks to help protect against waters that have exceeded record levels.
College students have traveled by the busload from nearby campuses to lend a hand during their spring breaks. Students from local high schools asked if they could take time to participate. Young people have turned social networks into community networks, coordinating with one another online to figure out how best to help.
In the face of an incredible challenge, the people of these communities have rallied in support of one another. And their service isn’t just inspirational – it’s integral to our response.
It’s also a reminder of what we can achieve when Americans come together to serve their communities. All across the nation, there are men, women and young people who have answered that call, and millions of other who would like to. Whether it’s helping to reduce the energy we use, cleaning up a neighborhood park, tutoring in a local school, or volunteering in countless other ways, individual citizens can make a big difference.
This is part IV of the North Dakota flood news aggregator. Click on these links for Part I(Tuesday),Part II(Wednesday), Part III(Thursday), Part IV (Friday), Part V (Saturday), Part VI (Sunday), Part VII (Monday) and Part VIII (Tuesday). There are lots of photos and video on Parts I, II, III, V and VI. I'm going to see if I can have the NEWEST ENTRIES AT THE TOP.
134. St Cloud Times -- Homeland Security ready to help 30,000 flood evacuees
133. KSJBam -- False Alarm Rattles Region [This story relates to the inaccurate information contained in an Emergency Announcement broadcast around the Fargo area in which it was suggested that there had been a call for a voluntary evacuation of Fargo. Various media outlets are calling for an investigation.]
132. Fargo Forum -- 58 teams patrolling dikes every two hours
131. Fargo Forum -- Napolitano: If worst happens, help is on the way
130. SurvivingTimes.com -- North Dakota: Floodwaters may cause thousands to flee homes, volunteers continue to enforce dikes
[L]et me give you just a quick rundown on the situation in North Dakota and in Minnesota. The White House is actively monitoring the impacts of the flooding in North Dakota and Minnesota. As you know, the President approved a major disaster declaration for the state of North Dakota on March 24th, and last night the President approved an emergency declaration for the state of Minnesota.
On the ground, the federal government continues to actively coordinate with state and local governments in both states to address the ongoing flood fight. This effort has been underway since late last week. FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Coast Guard, the National Guard, and other federal agencies, as well as the American Red Cross, have been -- continue the actively work with these officials to ensure their needs are being met.
Federal support is being provided up and down the Red River. Nancy Ward, the Acting FEMA Administrator, is on the ground currently in Fargo, and directly talking with federal, state and local officials to ensure that federal assistance is provided to support the response to the flooding. The President this morning talked with Governor Hoeven, Governor Pawlenty, and Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker today to discuss his concern for the residents of North Dakota and Minnesota, and to ensure that the states are getting the federal assistance they need to supplement any state and local efforts. Secretary Napolitano has been in contact with state and local officials to express her support, and she also briefed the President this morning on the latest developments.
This is important -- we cannot reinforce enough the importance for residents in both states remain vigilant in monitoring the reports of flood crests and to follow the instructions from their state and local leaders in the event that evacuations in their local areas become necessary.
And again, the President continues to be impressed with ongoing efforts of thousands of volunteers as they continue to work to protect their community.
108. CALL FOR VOLUNTEERS IN BISMARCK/MANDAN -- Volunteer Need: the U of Mary is preparing for 750 of Fargo's non-ambulatory nursing-home residents to be brought to the Field house at U of Mary. They would like volunteers ASAP to help with set up of the cots and resources. Especially health care workers, but not only those. Meet at the coffee shop/food center, "Chick's Place" in the Athletic Center. Between the Athletic Center and the Science Center. Pass on!
107. LA Times -- Fargo makes a last push before flood crests
105. Press conference call with Secretary Janet Napolitano. Napolitano says number one priority in the event of any possible evacuation should be your personal safety. She also noted you should have an evacuation plan, with a plan for where and when you will reunite with your family. She also noted that President Obama is not currently anticipating coming to North Dakota or Minnesota. She said it would divert too many resources that are needed for the flood fight effort. She also noted the President is watching the situation very closely. She has briefed him once on the matter today, and will do so again. I've got other notes from the call. I just need to figure out whether any of it's worth posting on. I'm sure some of the other media types will be writing about it soon enough.
104. They sent me the sign in information for a 3:00 p.m. (CDT) conference call with Dept. of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, so I'm signed in for that right now, waiting for it to start. Maybe they'll let me ask a question. If you have a suggested question, post it in the comments. But hurry.
103. Williston Herald (AP) -- Evacuated elderly Fargoans arrive in Bismarck [Note: I'm being told that "The Salvation Army person said they expect at least 1000 at the Civic Center. Once the Fargo folks arrive, the Salvation Army will serve food 24 hours per day and will need help doing so."]
44. YouTube -- from "y2kjohnson" -- 9:00 a.m., today -- "Backyard flood report 3/27/09. Current River level 40.5 feet. Previous all time record 40.2 in 1897. Predicted crestst [sic] is now 41.5 feet sometime tomorrow. Remaining height on our dike about 2 feet. Temps in the low 20s have slowed the rise of the river. Furniture was relocated from our basement yesterday."
43. Picasaweb -- Photos of sandbagging operation at the FargoDome
This is part III (Thursday) of the news aggregator. Click on these links for Part I(Tuesday),Part II(Wednesday), Part III(Thursday), Part IV (Friday), Part V (Saturday), Part VI (Sunday), Part VII (Monday) and Part VIII (Tuesday). There are lots of photos and video on Parts I, II, IV, V and VI. GO TO THE BOTTOM FOR NEWEST ADDITIONS, and work your way back up.
1. MSNBC -- Outside Fargo, flood battle minus the spotlight
2. Fargo Forum -- Fargo readies evacuation plan (with video)
3. Fargo Forum -- Latest: "We will defend every house," officials stress need for volunteers and urge vigilance in flood fight
4. Google (AP) -- Fargo, ND, officials to raise dikes as river rises
41. MSNBC -- Midwest prepares for record flooding "March 26: Residents in North Dakota and Minnesota are preparing for the worst as the Red River swells to record level. NBCs Kevin Tibbles reports from Moorhead, Minn."
42. CBS News -- Disaster declared in N.D. Flooding (video)