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Missouri River Flooding 2011

  • Saturated Soil and High Streams

    Saturated Soil and High Streams
    On Jan. 4, Jody Farhat, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' chief of water management for the Missouri River basin, was informed that saturated soil and high streams would likely cause runoff in the Missouri River system to be above normal in 2011. At this time, releases from the Garrison Dam were under 20,000 cubic feet per second (cfs).
  • Gunsch Raises Concerns

    Gunsch Raises Concerns
    On Jan. 22, Michael Gunsch, an engineer for the Burleigh County Water Resource District, emailed Farhat to tell her the public was "a bit jumpy around here.” Farhat also received several emails from residents of the Missouri River basin in the months leading up to major flooding.
  • "...we're in excellent shape..."

    "...we're in excellent shape..."
    On Jan. 25, Farhat emailed Bill Lay, a resident of the Missouri River basin, to assure him that the corps was "in excellent shape to capture this year's runoff and prevent flood damages downstream..." "The mountain snowpack is a bit above normal for this time of year ... but at this time it doesn't appear to be more than we can handle..." she added.
  • "It'll be a tricky operation..."

    "It'll be a tricky operation..."
    On Feb. 9, Farhat sent out an email addressing the need to coordinate releases with changing snowpack conditions. "It'll be a tricky operation -- we don't want to drop releases in advance of the melt if the river is still frozen due to concerns about what the ice might do," Farhat wrote.
  • Dalrymple Declares Emergency

    Dalrymple Declares Emergency
    Dalrymple issues disaster declaration in prep for spring flooding - The Bismarck Tribune On Feb. 11, Gov. Jack Dalrymple declared a statewide emergency in anticipation of spring flooding.
  • Record Snowpack

    Record Snowpack
    On Feb. 16, the corps' readiness branch sent Farhat an update on the flood threat along the entire Missouri River system, pointing out that several areas were experiencing record levels of snowpack.
  • Snow...

    Many caught off-guard in Friday blizzard - The Bismarck Tribune A March 11 blizzard stranded more than 800 motorists in North Dakota and covered much of the state with about 3 inches of snow.
  • Corps Decides to Cancel Pulse

    Corps Decides to Cancel Pulse
    On March 21, the corps announced that high flows had forced them to cancel a pulse -- a temporary increase in dam releases -- designed to benefit the endangered pallid sturgeon.
  • More Snow...

    More Snow...
    Spring storm blankets much of state - The Bismarck Tribune A March 22 blizzard covered central and western North Dakota in as much as a foot of snow in some areas.
  • "...normal to slightly above normal..."

    "...normal to slightly above normal..."
    On March 24, Farhat was contacted by Diana McCoy, a public affairs specialist with the corps, regarding questions from a reporter in Kansas about possible spring flooding. Farhat responded: "Reservoirs on the Missouri River are currently experiencing very high inflows," but projections for spring and summer releases were "normal to slightly above normal."
  • "...nothing to write home about."

    "...nothing to write home about."
    On April 1, Farhat emailed the corps' Missouri basin management staff to tell them she thought their estimates for spring runoff were "on the strong side." She added that mountain snowpack was "only slightly above normal and nothing to write home about."
  • "...it's not gone."

    "...it's not gone."
    On April 4, an unidentified corps official emailed Farhat to express concern that the corps' spring precipitation forecasts may be low and to suggest the corps should take the threat posed by mountain snowpack more seriously: "Comments like, 'the snow pack above Oahe is gone' raise concern for us when we know better. ... it's not gone."
  • Still More Snow...

    Still More Snow...
    Heavy snow falls in parts of the Dakotas - The Bismarck Tribune By April 15, another winter storm had dumped an additional 10 inches of snow on much of North Dakota.
  • Todd Sando Expresses Concerns

    Todd Sando Expresses Concerns
    On April 20, State Engineer Todd Sando sent a letter to Brig. Gen. John McMahon of the corps. In his letter, Sando expressed concerns that the corps' forecast did not "adequately address the current conditions in the basin and the potential for above normal precipitation this summer."
  • The Snow Continues...

    The Snow Continues...
    Bismarck has sixth-snowiest winter on record - The Bismarck Tribune By late April, much of North Dakota had been blanketed by near-record levels of snowfall. This compounded the corps' problems.
  • "...a huge water year..."

    "...a huge water year..."
    On April 26, Brig. Gen. John McMahon sent out an email email to several corps officials to update them on conditions along the Missouri River system, saying that "2011 is already shaping up to be a huge water year in the Missouri River basin and we're just getting started."
  • Corps Increases Runoff Forecast

    Corps Increases Runoff Forecast
    Revised runoff forecast worries states - The Bismarck Tribune By May 1, the corps had revised its 2011 runoff forecast from 33.8 million acre feet to 44 million acre feet.
  • "Conditions ... are extremely wet!"

    "Conditions ... are extremely wet!"
    On May 12, Garrison project manager Todd Lindquist emailed Farhat, saying, "My gut feeling is that we are still under forecasting." He added that he expected to see higher runoff from rain events because of already wet conditions.
  • McMahon Responds to Sando

    McMahon Responds to Sando
    On May 12, Brig. Gen. McMahon responded to Sando's letter, telling him that 2011 "has the potential to be one of the wettest years on record in the Missouri River basin." McMahon added that the increased releases planned at Garrison Dam and Gavins Point Dam would "lessen the impact" of the high flows.
  • Meeting Closed to the Public

    Meeting Closed to the Public
    Dept. of Emergency Services meeting on Missouri River closed to public - The Bismarck Tribune A meeting of national, state and local agencies was held on May 12 to discuss ways to deal with the high flows on the Missouri River. The meeting was closed to the public. Sando sent an email to several corps officials about the meeting.
  • Heavy Rains Hit Montana

    Heavy Rains Hit Montana
    Rain fell in torrents - The Billings Gazette Beginning on May 19, Montana was battered by more than 5 inches of rain in a four day period. This forced the corps to abandon any hope of limiting releases to normal patterns.
  • Discussions of 60,000 cfs

    Discussions of 60,000 cfs
    On May 20, Farhat emailed an unidentified corps official to advise them that she and Todd Sando have agreed to ramp up releases to 60,000 cfs by May 28.
  • "The situation here is critical."

    "The situation here is critical."
    On May 23, Farhat emailed Col. Robert Tipton to inform him that they needed "to increase releases throughout the system. There will certainly be impacts in the Bismarck and Pierre areas..." Farhat added, "The situation here is critical."
  • 75,000 cfs

    75,000 cfs
    Ready for 75,000 cfs? Bismarck braces for bigger Missouri River - The Bismarck Tribune The announcement that Garrison Dam would begin releasing an unprecendented 75,000 cfs shocked many along the Missouri River. But this was only the beginning of a summer that would be marked by record-breaking releases.
  • 105,000 cfs

    105,000 cfs
    Corps accelerates release from Garrison Dam - The Bismarck Tribune On March 27, the corps announced it would increse releases from Garrison Dam to 105,000 cfs. This number would climb the next day.
  • Releases to Reach 150,000 cfs

    Releases to Reach 150,000 cfs
    150,000 cfs release from Garrison Dam by mid-June - The Bismarck Tribune On May 28, the corps announced that it planned to raise releases from Garrison Dam to 150,000 cfs.
  • "The condition continues to worsen..."

    "The condition continues to worsen..."
    On May 28, Farhat emailed several corps officials to update them on the situation along the Missouri River, telling them "(t)he condition continues to worsen by the day." Farhat went on to tell the officials that the corps would likely have to increase releases sooner than expected.
  • Spillway Opens at Garrison Dam

    Spillway Opens at Garrison Dam
    History and heartbreak: A sad day at Garrison Dam as spillway gates open - The Bismarck Tribune On June 1, the spillway gates at Garrison Dam were opened for the first time in the dam's 57-year history. The spillway gates remained open until Aug. 17.
  • Bismarck Hits Flood Stage

    Bismarck Hits Flood Stage
    As Missouri River enters flood stage, officials confident levees will hold - The Bismarck Tribune According to USGS data, the Missouri River at Bismarck reached flood stage (16 feet) at about 4:00 a.m. on June 2. It would remain at flood stage until Aug. 18.