Photo Courtesy Dale Hellman
By Kay Braddock
For Dale and Jaynee Hellman flood warnings affecting neighborhoods bordering the Missouri River in the Bismarck-Mandan area hit a little too close to home. The Terry couple recently spent four days helping their daughter Misti and her husband Dyke Boese prepare for floodwaters that are expected to hit the Boese’s home sometime this month.
“Everybody is just scrambling out of frustration because they don’t know what to do,” Dale Hellman said, describing what he saw while there last month. “It’s just unreal.”
Some neighbors have gone to the extent of plowing up entire yards in order to form barriers around their homes, while others, like the Boeses search for sand and prefilled sandbags to build up dikes.
“There’s no problem getting bags,” Hellman said, pointing out Burleigh County officials have been giving out empty bags. “The problem is getting sand and finding prefilled bags.”
To haul in a pickup load of sand from one site took as long as four hours, Hellman recalled. He described another wait that took over five hours to pick up prefilled sandbags.
From moving furniture out of the home to a friend’s residence located on higher ground, to filling sandbags and building a 6-foot high dike around the home to hauling in more sand and plugging floor drains inside the house, Hellman said the 50 to 60 volunteers that showed up during the four-day period had numerous tasks to complete within a short timeframe.
Friends and family from Montana, coworkers and members of a Bismarck wrestling group, that the Boese family is active in, were all on hand to help. Over 20 people affiliated with a wrestling group from Carrington, N.D. - 150 miles away - also came to help in the effort.
“Matpac wrestlers were there filling bags when we got there,” Hellman said. “We just got there and pitched in.”
Dyke and Misti Boese moved to Bismarck from Glendive in the summer of 2007 after Dyke was transferred as the IT Network Programmer for Montana Dakotas Utilities. The couple and their three children, live north of Bismarck, on Hoge Island, one of the hardest hit flood areas. Although their home is several blocks from the banks of the Missouri River and isn’t classified as being in a flood zone area, U.S. Army Corp of Engineers warned them and others in their subdivision to prepare for floodwaters.
“At first we thought we had to only go 3 feet,” Hellman said of building the dike. But that number changed to 5-feet. The group of volunteers decided to go above that to 6 feet high.
“You can’t just put a bag on top of a bag,” Hellman said. “You have to build a wide base, because that’s where the current is at.”
He estimated the base of the dike was about 15 to 20 bags wide and that between 35,000 to 40,000 sandbags were used to surround the house and attached garage. Sandbags varied between 8 to 10 pounds and 30 pounds, depending on who was filling them.
The 6-foot high dike was then sealed with a heavy tarp.
Three generators and three pumps are in place to pump out any water that may seep through.
Although officials from the Corp, who determine how much water to release from the Garrison Dam, are anticipating lower flow levels in the Missouri River than what was originally thought, Hellman questions if any official can really know what will happen once the Corp begins releasing the maximum amount of water. The Corp is expected to begin releasing its max of 155,000 cubic feet per second from Garrison Dam later this month. As the riverbed widens and deepens, Corp officials have indicated that the Missouri River’s flow may not go as high as previously warned.
Floodwaters could remain in place for up to two months, meaning families could be displaced during that time. But as with other estimates, Hellman points out that no one really knows what will happen.
Currently the Boese family is staying in the upstairs master bedroom, with a few of their remaining furniture items. Once an emergency evacuation is mandated the family will stay in a friend’s home, who has offered her empty house for as long as is needed.
Although critical of the Corp’s decision to keep dam levels too high, Hellman was optimistic of the work completed by so many volunteers.
“We gave it a good effort,” Hellman said. “That’s all we can do.”
Published June 8, 2011