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North Dakota Guard Wades in Against Flood Threat

By By Sgt. 1st Class Amy Wieser Willson
North Dakota National Guard

CAVALIER, N.D., May 23, 2013 – When heavy rain threatened a dam near Cavalier, North Dakota, the call went out from North Dakota National Guard units yesterday. Within 12 hours, Guardsmen from communities across eastern North Dakota were on duty in Cavalier beginning yesterday.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Spc. Brandon Nelson and Spc. Fredrick Burdick, both of the 3662nd Maintenance Company, North Dakota Army National Guard, man a traffic control point on the outskirts of Cavalier, N.D., to inform motorists that the roads are closed in the town due to an evacuation caused by the threat of severe flooding May 22, 2013. U.S. Air National Guard photo by Senior Master Sgt. David H. Lipp

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

The soldiers, about 40 today down from a peak of 70 yesterday, are working rotating 12-hour shifts to support the community, which was evacuated Tuesday evening after significant rainfall threatened the stability of the Renwick Dam on the Tongue River.

“Unfortunately, due to all of the events in recent years — from statewide flooding to another threatened dam near Kathryn, North Dakota, in 2009 — we’ve become well experienced in working with others across our state to provide flood-related support,” said Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, North Dakota adjutant general, who toured the area yesterday with Gov. Jack Dalrymple and met with city and county leaders in Cavalier, Crystal and Grafton. “Our Guardsmen again responded quickly, and we will continue to support northeastern North Dakota as long as we’re requested to do so.”

Senior Airman Gabriel Irvis called the flood-related mission “familiar territory,” although this time he’s working in his other uniform — that of Trooper Irvis, a member of the Highway Patrol’s Northeast Region in Langdon, N.D.

At five entrance points to the city, the Highway Patrol joined with the North Dakota Guardsmen and members of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which includes the Border Patrol, to provide security, information and some traffic control for the city of about 1,300 that resembled a ghost town Wednesday.

On the western edge of the city, Spc. Brandon M. Nelson and Spc. Fredrick Burdick — who both live in Devils Lake and serve with the 3662nd Maintenance Company at Camp Grafton Training Center — watched for vehicles and visited with their counterparts from the Highway Patrol and Border Patrol. They expressed empathy for the homeowners who needed to leave quickly while facing the uncertainty of the dam and spillway withstanding the pressure of the water.

“I feel bad telling them no, they can’t come back in,” Burdick said.

On the north end of town, the sentiment was the same with Spc. Dominic Sevigny, of Grand Forks, N.D., Spc. Moses Zozimo, of Fargo, N.D., and Spc. Alex Nagel, of Grand Forks. Sevigny serves with the Fargo-based 191st Military Police Company, Zozimo is with the Fargo-based Company A, 231st Brigade Support Battalion, and Nagel serves with the rear detachment for the Grand Forks-based 1st Battalion, 188th Air Defense Artillery Regiment, all North Dakota Army National Guard units.

Zozimo, an immigrant from Sudan, said flood-related missions are new for him, but he’s proud to be helping his new home.

“It is kind of a good feeling helping out,” he said. “By me doing even a little, it’s helping them a lot.”

Meanwhile, Capt. Ryan Boom, a North Dakota National Guard liaison officer who serves with the 191st Military Police Company, was coordinating updates and information with other leaders in a meeting at the Cavalier Law Enforcement Center.

“Cavalier had luck on its side, as it had equipment staged near the location of the temporary dike that was there for a different project,” he said. “It’s been an absolute pleasure to work with the city of Cavalier. The response from the community together as a team showed what a success it is. It’s a privilege to be a part of this amazing team response.”

Beyond law enforcement support, the North Dakota National Guard provided three UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters that were on standby to place 1-ton sandbags to slow the erosion of the Renwick Dam spillway on Wednesday. The helicopters also were on standby for potential search-and-rescue missions, but ended the mission in Cavalier last night as the pressure on the dam began to lessen. 

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North Dakota Army National Guard
North Dakota Air National Guard

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