Volunteers raced to stack more sandbags Monday, afraid that meltdown from a spring blizzard could worsen what’s already some of the most severe flooding on the northern Plains in years.
Across the Plains, fields were sheets of white stretching to the horizon after a storm over the weekend left more than 2 feet of snow in places.
In northwestern Minnesota, along the Red River that forms the state line with North Dakota, bright sunshine melted a little snow, but the real thaw is expected Thursday or Friday, said Mark Seeley, climatologist with the University of Minnesota Extension Service. “Everything predicted for the Red is a flood of historic proportions,” he said.
In the central part of the state, the National Weather Service issued a flood warning extending for the next two weeks along parts of three rivers - the Minnesota, Mississippi and St. Croix.
There was no quick way to gauge how bad the flooding might become there once the snow melts, but 4 to 5 inches of heavy, late-season snow could be equal to 1 inch of rain, Seeley said.
That much water would create floods rivaling those in 1993, when flooding across the Midwest was blamed for 48 deaths and $10 billion in damage in nine states.
“Look at 1997, with all of the rain, snow, ice and freezing subzero temperatures. None of that was present in 1993,” said Jim Franklin, state emergency management director.
In northwestern Minnesota, rising water from the Wild Rice and Marsh rivers forced the evacuation of about 1,000 residents of Ada, a town of 1,700.
Giant chunks of ice floated through intersections filled hip-deep with water. Arnie Aasland and his wife, Marge, were evacuated after flagging down National Guardsmen in a personnel carrier by waving a white towel out their front door.
“We’ve been living in the bathroom for a day and a half with a space heater,” said Aasland.
President Clinton signed a disaster declaration Monday for North Dakota and South Dakota, freeing up federal money for cleanup. Thousands were still without power.