LAKEWOOD, Colo. -- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff have been mobilized to protect people and property affected by severe flood conditions in parts of North and South Dakota, including the James, Red and Souris River Basins. Significant late season rainfall and above normal snowpack have created the potential for severe flooding in these areas. The National Weather Service predicts that extensive additional precipitation and warmer temperatures will accelerate flooding in the near future to record or near-record levels.
The flooding is expected to have serious effects on communities in these areas and to impact several Service facilities, including units of the National Wildlife Refuge System and National Fish Hatchery System. The flood event is anticipated to last for many weeks and there will be a need for clean up and restoration activities after the flood waters subside.
Service personnel are assisting local, State and Federal emergency response efforts through deployment of Service resources ranging from boats, heavy equipment, aircraft, law enforcement personnel and other emergency and technical resources.
"Our top priority is to ensure the safety of people in the affected communities and our employees," said Stephen Guertin, director of the Service's Mountain-Prairie Region. "We are also working to safeguard Service trust resources and the infrastructure that supports those resources."
Since last week, Service work crews have been working at Service facilities to place sand bags for flood protection, install water pumps, repair damaged dikes, open culverts to divert water away from buildings, remove ice and debris to maintain road access, move equipment from buildings facing inundation and conduct other preventive actions to minimize damage. They are also providing boats and personnel to meet requests from local emergency response personnel for help with local evacuations of people and domestic animals.
Current conditions in the affected areas are challenging. Blizzard and winter storm conditions are limiting travel and Service facilities are experiencing power outages.
"The list of activities related to our flood response efforts is long and will surely grow as this event develops further," Guertin said. ?Boat operators are describing the winter operating conditions as some of the most difficult they've had to deal with.
"I am extremely proud of the rapid response of Service personnel who are working side-by-side with members of their communities to minimize damage from this flood event. The Service remains committed to providing the necessary resources to weather the storm and to promote a quick recovery."