Photos: Minot, N.D.

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  1. Floodwater from the Souris River surrounds the Ramstad Jr. High School in Minot on Monday, June 27. (Charles Rex Arbogast / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. This June 25 satellite image provided by GeoEye shows flooding due to the cresting of the Souris River in Minot. Mayor Curt Zimbelman says demolition might be the only solution for nearly one-fifth of the homes in the city that have been damaged by Souris River flooding. (GeoEye / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Floodwater from the Souris River surrounds homes on the right, as others sit dry in Minot, N.D., on Monday, June 27. Just 375 of the 4,000 homes in flooded areas were insured for floods, FEMA spokesman John Ashton said. (Charles Rex Arbogast / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Gordon Valgren, right, cleans debris from his flood-damaged home as his neighbor Clayton Rostad watches in Minot on June 27. Residents who live on the edge of the flood zone began to clean the water damage from their homes on Monday. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Floodwater pumped out of the basement of a Minot State University building is emptied across a levee into University Ave. in Minot on June 27. As the river hit its record-shattering peak and began a slow retreat, residents looked ahead to an arduous rebuilding job while continuing to deal with short-term obstacles such as sharing the homes of friends and relatives, traffic tie-ups and an advisory to boil drinking water. (Charles Rex Arbogast / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Floodwaters from the Souris River surround homes on 3rd St. N.W. near Minot State University June 27 in Minot, N.D. (Charles Rex Arbogast / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. An earthen levee sits on top of 3rd Street N.W. in Minot, N.D., giving some protection to one house, left, and damming the Souris River on the other side near Minot State University, June 27. (Charles Rex Arbogast / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. The National Guard provides two large "bladders," water tanks that hold thousands of gallons of water, one for non-potable water and one for potable water, for the water supply to Trinity Hospital in downtown Minot, N. D., near the Souris River in Minot June 27. There have been no reported deaths or injuries in the biggest flood in area history but floodwaters have all but swallowed more than 3,000 homes and displaced more than 12,000 Minot-area residents. (Allen Fredrickson / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Mobile homes are submerged in floodwater as the Souris River crests as seen from the air June 26 in Minot, North Dakota. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Businesses are surrounded by floodwaters as the Souris River crests, June 26, in Minot, N.D. The Souris River surpassed its 1881 record level of 1,558 feet above sea level, flooding an estimated 4,000 homes in the city. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Zach Hillman, left, and Bill Damschen with the U.S. Geological Survey team mark the crest of the river with orange paint on a sidewalk across the street from Saint Therese The Little Flower Catholic Church in Minot, N.D., June 26. (Allen Fredrickson / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Emergency workers survey flood damage June 26, in Burlington, N.D. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. John and Deb Walker, evacuated from their home flooded by the Souris River, hug during a church service for three Lutheran congregations held at The Vegas Hotel Sunday, June 26, in Minot, N.D. (Charles Rex Arbogast / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Federal workers use a boat to take North Dakota National Guard engineers off their equipment after securing cables to a pedestrian bridge over the flooding Souris River on Saturday, June 25, in Minot, N.D. The plan to drag the debris-filled bridge into a railyard parking lot was suspended because of lightning in the area. (Charles Rex Arbogast / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Homes are reflected in floodwaters, with the earthen levee of one house, center, appearing to remain intact in Minot on June 25. (Allen Fredrickson / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. A member of the National Guard runs down a newly built dike to help residents pack up as sirens sound declaring a mandatory evacuation of Sawyer, N.D., just south of Minot, on June 25. The floodwaters are expected to crest in Minot late Saturday or early Sunday. (Craig Lassig / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Rescue workers help a man who was trapped when his car stalled in flooding from the Souris River on Highway 52 south of Minot, June 25. (Craig Lassig / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. A railroad line is covered by floodwater from the Souris River on June 25 in Minot. (Scott Olson / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Floodwaters of the Souris River flow through a neighborhood in Minot on June 24. The river broke the 1881 record for flooding there, rising so quickly that it could be seen climbing up the side of homes. (Charles Rex Arbogast / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Trucks bring in dirt as work continues on the dikes to keep back the Souris River in Minot on June 24. (Craig Lassig / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Members of the North Dakota National Guard place sandbags on top of the dike that surrounds a library and fire station in Minot on June 24. (Craig Lassig / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Floodwaters of the Souris River breach a levee and flood a neighborhood on June 24 in Minot. (Charles Rex Arbogast / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. A homemade measuring stick marks feet above the ground as the Souris River rises in Minot on June 24. (Craig Lassig / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. A farm house and barn are surrounded by floodwaters from the Souris River near Velva, N.D., on June 24. The flooding is being fed by heavy rain upstream and water releases from reservoirs. (Charles Rex Arbogast / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Floodwaters from the Souris River surround a farm house and barn near Burlington, N.D., on June 24. (Charles Rex Arbogast / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. A tractor-trailer drives through floodwaters from the Souris River on Highway 2 near Velva, N.D., on June 24. (Charles Rex Arbogast / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. National Guard Sgt. Chris Franck naps in the Burlington, N.D., fire hall after a shift on flood duty on June 24. At least one-third of the town's 1,000 residents were forced to evacuate. (Dale Wetzel / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Flood waters begin to pour through a breached levee and and around the Minot Country Club on June 23 in Minot. Officials in North Dakota's fourth-largest city said Thursday they had done all they could to protect critical infrastructure from the rising Souris River as it headed toward a record flood. (Christian Randolph / The Grand Forks Herald via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Volunteers race to add two more feet of sand bags to a massive dike around Mary Dittus' family gas station. Higher crest estimates of the Souris River flood waters were announced and more evacuations were ordered in Minot, on Thursday. (Craig Lassig / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Kathy Siverton steps over sandbags as she packs up her belongings and evacuates her home on Thursday in Minot. (Charles Rex Arbogast / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Sounthbound traffic is backed up on the Highway 83 bypass as residents flee the rising flood waters from the Souris river, Thursday, in Minot. (Christian Randolph / The Grand Forks Herald via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. A neighborhood is submerged by flood water from the Souris River Thursday, in Minot. (Christian Randolph / The Grand Forks Herald via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Air Force Staff Sergeant Tina Miller and other volunteers race to finish a dike around the Little Flower Catholic Church after higher crest estimates of the Souris River flood waters were announced and more evacuations were ordered in Minot, North Dakota on Thursday, June 23. Reports state that up to one third of the city could end up underwater. (Craig Lassig / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Members of the North Dakota National Guard keep watch of the Souris River floodwaters in downtown Minot, N.D., on June 23. Nearly 11,000 residents have evacuated. (Craig Lassig / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  35. Zach Peterson measures the height of a dike to prepare for Souris River floodwaters in Minot, on June 23. (Craig Lassig / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  36. National Guard personnel and members of the media watch as floodwaters from the Souris River threaten residential property as flood water is over topping earthen dikes in Minot, North Dakota on Thursday. (Allen Fredrickson / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  37. Crews continue to reinforce an earthen levee along the Souris River on Thursday in Minot, N.D. (Charles Rex Arbogast / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  38. Members of the North Dakota National Guard work through the night building dikes as the Souris River floodwaters rise in Minot, N.D., early on June 23. (Craig Lassig / EPA) Back to slideshow navigation
  39. Floodwaters from the Souris river begin to flood a Minot neighborhood on June 22. As many as 10,000 people raced to evacuate Wednesday as water began spilling over Minot's levees. The river, which begins in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan and flows for a short distance though North Dakota, was all but certain to inundate thousands of homes and businesses during the next week. (Christian Randolph / The Grand Forks Herald via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  40. Frank Hughes, right, and Cheyenne Johnson pass the time in the temporary disaster relief shelter set up at the Municipal Auditorium in Minot, N.D. on June 22. (Christian Randolph / The Grand Forks Herald via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  41. Darrin Cox and Shawna Newell help evacuate a home in Minot, N.D., on June 22, before the final order to evacuate was given. (Will Kincaid / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  42. Construction crews build up a levee along the Souris River in Minot, N.D., on June 22. (Will Kincaid / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  43. This evacuated apartment building in Minot, N.D., was spraypainted on June 22 with a black line and "1969" -- a reference to how high the last big flood rose. The current flood is likely to be seven feet higher. (Will Kincaid / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  44. Soldiers with the North Dakota National Guard place sandbags on a temporary levee in Minot, N.D., on June 22. Some 500 soldiers were in the town of 40,000. (Patrick Moes / U.S. Army Corp of Engineers) Back to slideshow navigation
  45. Other parts of North Dakota are getting hit by flooding on the Missouri River. This home near Bismarck was being swallowed up by Missouri River waters on June 22. (Brian Gehring / The Bismarck Tribune via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
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  1. Image:
    Charles Rex Arbogast / AP
    Above: Slideshow (45) Flooding in North Dakota - Minot, N.D.
  2. Image: A community of homes is surrounded by floodwaters near Blair, Nebraska
    Lane Hickenbottom / Reuters
    Slideshow (11) Flooding in North Dakota - Midwest
By
updated 6/29/2011 4:36:48 PM ET 2011-06-29T20:36:48

Soon-to-be superintendent Mark Vollmer walked gingerly atop an earthen dike shielding Perkett Elementary School from swirling, 9-foot-deep floodwaters and poked a long wooden pole into its base, searching for signs of wear.

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Fortunately, the barrier — quickly built from playground soil last week as the rain-choked Souris River bore down on the little brick schoolhouse — appeared to be holding fast.

It was a bright spot in an otherwise grim picture for Minot's public education leaders, who must decide soon where to put more than 1,000 elementary and middle-school students whose buildings probably will be unfit for occupancy this fall. The flood also swamped 4,100 homes and hundreds of businesses.

"We've got some long days ahead of us," said Vollmer, 45, who officially starts his new job Friday after serving as the North Dakota district's high school principal for the past six years. "But we'll rebuild our homes and rebuild our schools and rebuild our lives and we'll make it."

Two of the district's elementary schools are believed to have severe water damage, and a middle school is submerged to the roofline. Together, they account for 1,028 students, about 15 percent of the district's total enrollment. Another elementary school with 281 pupils had a sewage backup in the basement but has been pumped out and appears in good shape.

Perkett Elementary, where 248 children attend, is dry for now, though it resembled a vulnerable island as Vollmer and other officials inspected the dike this week. The residential neighborhood where the school is located had become a lake, its waters so deep that only the upper portions of houses were visible. Road signs and basketball goals peeked a foot or two above the surface.

"About a month ago, I was umpiring baseball games out here," social studies teacher Steve Dangel said as the motorboat he and Vollmer took to reach Perkett rumbled past a nearby park. "Now you can't even see the outfield wall."

Dangel, 32, had been scheduled to transfer from the high school to Ramstad Middle School this fall. His wife, Angie, teaches second grade at Longfellow Elementary, one of the schools with severe water damage. She hauled three truckloads of supplies from her classroom just in time.

"I really don't know how much water is in the room and I really won't know what to think until I walk in and see the mess," she said.

Also flooded was the Little Flower Elementary, a Catholic school with 170 pupils in preschool through fifth grade, as a last-minute sandbagging effort fell short.

Superintendent Terry Voiles said the brick and terrazzo structure may have fended off major structural damage but is unlikely to be ready when classes resume Aug. 17. Its students probably will be shifted to a Catholic high school outside the danger zone.

Image: Priest looks at flooded school
Scott Olson  /  Getty Images
Catholic priest Fred Harver takes a photo as water floods over Little Flower Elementary on June 24 in Minot, N.D.

Flooding is nothing new in the Souris Valley. The Army Corps of Engineers and a local contractor placed dikes around schools a month ago when it appeared the river would overflow after a heavy storm. But everyone was caught off guard by last week's deluge, the worst on record.

Vollmer said school officials were notified June 20 that a 7-inch rainstorm in Canada, about 60 miles north, was sending a gigantic surge of water downstream. They raced to shore up the existing dikes and build new ones to protect schools in low-lying areas. Ironically, a dike that had been erected around Lincoln Elementary during the earlier scare was removed when it appeared the threat had passed. Last week, there was no time to rebuild it and the school now has severe water damage.

Ramstad Middle School's dike was raised to the roofline, but it wasn't high enough.

As the crisis worsened Friday night, workers struggled to save Longfellow, where synthetic barriers thrown up by the National Guard were no match for the water that soaked through sewage drains and the porous soil.

"The water was coming right up through the ground," Vollmer said. "We'd plug one spot and we'd lose another spot. We just couldn't stay ahead of it."

Image: Mark Vollmer
John Flesher  /  AP
Mark Vollmer, who becomes school superintendent Friday in Minot, N.D., on Tuesday inspects an earthen dike protecting Perkett Elementary School from floodwaters.

At Perkett, heavy equipment operators scraped up soil from the playground to form a protective wall. When one portion weakened, the National Guard dropped 83 giant sandbags from a helicopter.

During an aerial tour Sunday, Vollmer said, the extent of the damage hit home. "I can't even think of a word to describe the devastation," he said.

As the river crested over the weekend and began a slow retreat, school officials turned their attention to the academic year that begins in less than two months. Gov. Jack Dalrymple says he'll appoint a task force to help with planning.

Until the waters recede and inspectors can tour the buildings, it won't be clear how much work they will need, Vollmer said. But it's all but certain that Longfellow and Lincoln elementary schools and Ramstad middle school will be out of commission. Carpets will have to be removed and there may be electrical and structural damage. The buildings will have to be thoroughly scrubbed.

Among the options are moving the students into undamaged school buildings, acquiring portable classrooms and holding classes in other vacant locations. The district's schools were already packed because of population growth fueled by an oil boom in the area, although some children of flooded-out families might not return this fall, Vollmer said.

Most textbooks and computers were rescued. But desks, filing cabinets and other equipment will have to be replaced. Teachers may have lost lesson plans and supplies.

The price tag is unknown. Another financial concern: The inundated homes will have less taxable value. About 30 percent of the public school budget is generated by local property taxes.

Despite everything, parents and school officials remain mostly upbeat.

Julie Kudrna, who has one child at Longfellow and another at Ramstad, said her family — including the kids — will volunteer to help with the cleanup.

"It's going to be one of those years they will grow as little people and take a big step into maturity," Kudrna said. "The life lessons they will learn from this are something you can't learn in a book."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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