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Cusick Immersed In Dike Construction Town Building Backup Dike As River Rises Rapidly

Sat., May 17, 1997

Regional flood roundup

Construction was to begin this morning on an emergency dike to protect this town from the rapidly rising Pend Oreille River.

Mayor Paul Haas said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers agreed Friday to place about 3,000 cubic yards of fill along Cusick’s main thoroughfare, Monumental Road, in case the dike along the river breaks.

Haas was working with a crew of 50 convicts Friday evening to finish shoring up a weak spot in the existing dike.

In other developments, county commissioners ordered boaters to cause no wakes that might erode flooded shores and the Red Cross opened an emergency shelter at Newport Middle School.

Cusick officials hope the berm to be built today will trap water on three baseball fields if it gets through the main dike. The town’s school buildings are on the other side of the road.

School leaders plan classes as usual Monday, but were taking no chances Friday. They moved all their important records, including student transcripts, to bank vaults in Newport.

“What they haven’t moved, they’ve pretty well cleaned off the bottom two shelves everywhere,” said Joette McGee, the school secretary and the city clerk. “God only knows whether two shelves will be enough.”

Most of the bottom shelves in the Pend Oreille Grocery also had been cleared, and the store was surrounded by a 4-foot wall of sandbags. Inside the store’s cafe, customers sipped coffee, smoked cigarettes and told flood stories. More than a few examined pictures on the wall showing the 1948 flood that approached the eaves of many houses here.

So far, emergency workers say this year’s flood is more like the one in 1974 that bypassed Cusick. But the river had risen 15-1/2 inches in 24 hours by Friday.

Friday’s flow already exceeded last year’s peak, which caused minor flooding in about 25 homes. The flow was expected to reach the official flood stage, 106,000 cubic feet per second, early this morning.

County Emergency Services Director JoAnn Boggs said the flow may be between 135,000 and 140,000 cfs late next week, which could raise the river level at Cusick to an elevation of 2,049 feet. That’s just 3 feet from the top of the dike.

In North Idaho, Milo Creek chased more than a dozen families from their homes Friday in Kellogg, and the St. Joe River swallowed a farm north of St. Maries.

The St. Joe River was expected to peak today at 38.5 feet, and Lake Coeur d’Alene was predicted to climb 8 feet above summer level by Monday.

In Bonner County, the Clark Fork, Pack, Priest and Pend Oreille rivers from the mouth of Priest River west to the county line are all closed to vessels of any type.

Lake Pend Oreille, which usually doesn’t reach full pool until mid-June, is already going above its normal summer level. It’s expected to rise two or three feet more in the next week. Lakefront dwellers are scrambling to keep their docks from floating away.

In Western Montana, small stream flood warnings were issued for all of Lake, Mineral, Missoula and Sanders counties Friday. Flood warnings also were in effect for creeks and rivers in Flathead and Missoula counties.

Most of the homes flooded last year by the Pend Oreille River were in the low-lying Dalkena area, about halfway between Cusick and Newport. Some of them almost certainly will be flooded by Monday.

One of them belongs to Ted Shrum, who was working on a four-foot sandbag wall Friday with help from his son and grandson and a friend of his son. By midafternoon Friday, water already was at last year’s level and lapping at the sandbags.

“We’re fortunate, compared to the people back in the Dakotas,” Shrum said with more than reasonable cheer for a man in his situation. “Our river doesn’t come all in one big gush.”

Shrum had high praise for volunteers and county officials, who have actively helped residents sandbag their homes.

“Only God knows what’s going to happen,” Shrum said. “We’ll do the best we can with what we’ve got and call it a day - and no bitter tears.”

, DataTimes MEMO: Changed from the Idaho edition

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = John Craig Staff writer Staff writers Susan Drumheller and Kevin Keating and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Changed from the Idaho edition

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = John Craig Staff writer Staff writers Susan Drumheller and Kevin Keating and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

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