With this year's significant winter snow melt and additional spring precipitation, flooding is currently impacting many areas in the Midwest, from the Dakotas into Iowa. The Midwest Region is both preparing for and participating in flood recovery efforts with other national and state agencies. The Midwest Regional Flood Response web site is provided as a source for information on U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff and equipment being deployed to combat this challenging national event to help minimize damage to people, property and natural resources. Check back as we update you on the current activities of our staff in assisting in flood recovery in our region and neighboring regions throughout this seasonal event.
March 25, 2010 Update
With water levels having crested in most flooding locations and beginning to recede back to normal levels, the Regional flood response team has declared a stand down in operations. Good news for those who worried of worsening conditions from winter melting, potential ice jams and additional precipitation. The team will continue to monitor reports should new flooding threats become a possibility from spring rains that undoubtedly still may come and swell water levels once again. But the threat of the one-two punch of precipitation and the winter melt has pretty much subsided for the Dakotas on southward to Iowa.
Regional Safety Specialist Robert McGinn expressed his thanks to Incident Commander Dan Dearborn, Regional Watercraft Safety Officer Dave Wedan, and Regional Heavy Equipment Coordinator Dale Pitman, for their outstanding efforts to make sure areas in both our Region and Region 6 had the support necessary to respond to the constantly changing conditions on the ground throughout this seasonal event. While this season's flooding might not have been as busy and highly impacting as previous years, much credit for that goes to the preparation that was evident from the start thanks to their hard work and the work of others who took part in various actions, such as sandbagging prior to water levels rising to dangerous levels.
Dave Wedan added, "I would like to express appreciation also to Brian Pember, Bill Thrune, Bridget Olson, Robert Bengson, Ron Beam, Wendy Woyczik, Sally Zodrow, Duane King, Kim Bousquet, and each of their supervisors. These nine airboat operators, with their supervisor's support, immediately stepped-up to the flood response threat. They carried on with their normal duties while prepared and knowing they were a phone call away from being the first wave of Region 3 airboaters deployed to North Dakota or Minnesota if requested. Thanks to all of you, and the many field station supervisors and watercraft operators who have cooperated and responded to my requests for resource information in preparation for present and future responses."
Among the final river areas to reach their crest was the Mississippi River, impacting areas near downtown St. Paul and further south to the Hastings, MN, lock and dam. Those crests arrived with little damage and water levels are expected to recede below flood stage by the weekend. Conditions in the Dakotas have improved to the minor flood stage levels with water continuing to recede. In Iowa flood levels also remain at minor flooding levels with water expected to continue to recede through the weekend and no major rains expected to impact the region through the weekend.
March 17, 2010 Update
As waters have already begun spilling over river banks in parts of Minnesota, Iowa and the Dakotas, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is not only monitoring the impacts but preparing to confront them in efforts to lessen the damage to people, property and natural resources. As of March 17, FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) has yet to declare an emergency for Minnesota and Iowa, however they have declared a state of emergency in North and South Dakota where water levels are expected to crest as early as Friday, March 19, in some places, including the Red River, in the Fargo, North Dakota and Moorhead, Minnesota areas.
In Minnesota, the National Weather Service has forecast flood warnings, with severity increased from moderate to major in many areas including the Minneapolis and St. Paul metropolitan area, where waters are expected to exceed flood stage by Saturday, March 20.
Initial preparations by Midwest region staff include performing inventory of equipment that might be of use in flood response as well as personnel to assist. To date, the region has not mobilized either airboats or staff to effected areas, however the Fish and Wildlife Service's Region 6 has received a FEMA request to provide airboats to the Cass County, Minnesota, area impacted by high waters.
Dan Dearborn has been appointed as the Incident Commander for Fish and Wildlife Service flood activities in Western Minnesota, as Service staff are deep into the steps of planning for rapid response as ground conditions warrant. Dave Wedan, La Crosse Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office, Regional Watercraft Safety Officer, and Dale Pittman, Illinois River NWR, Regional Heavy Equipment Coordinator, have been working to coordinate Midwest region staffing, airboats, operators, mechanics and additional heavy equipment that may be needed to confront the flooding that is expected to further pour over into parts of Minnesota and Iowa in the days ahead.
Refuge and Wetland Management District staffs from various locations, including Detroit Lakes and Fergus Falls, MN, have already been assisting locally with sandbag efforts.
Winter Boat Training Photos
The images below (courtesy of Owen Johnson) show some of the winter airboat training activities that participants completed as a preparation for possible flood reponse, mere weeks before the actual flooding events began.