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Snow removal and flood preparations subjects of a bill signing ceremony in Bismarck

Sen. Terry Wanzek (R-Jamestown), Gov. Burgum (l) and others at a bill signing ceremony
Dave Thompson
Sen. Terry Wanzek (R-Jamestown), Gov. Burgum (l) and others at a bill signing ceremony

Gov. Doug Burgum has signed a bill for emergency snow removal funding.

The measure makes $20 million available for tribal communities, cities, counties and townships to help with their snow removal efforts.

"In many communities, we achieved our average annual snowfall before Christmas," said Sen. Terry Wanzek (R-Jamestown), one of the measure's sponsors. "And here, late in the winter season, or I might say, early spring, we are still positioned to beat all-time records for annual snowfall. This has been trying on our patience, our resiliency, our fortitude and our budgets."

Wanzek said the funding is available immediately. The grants will come through the Department of Emergency Management.

Flood Prep

Meanwhile, preparations are underway for flooding, as the snow melts.

"The bad news is, we've got a lot of snow," said North Dakota National Guard Adjutant General Alan Dohrmann. "The good news is, we went into winter with drier than normal soil, with a thick blanket of snow on top of that soil. So the frost depths are not that deep, so the soil is going to accept a lot of moisture as we go into the thaw."

Dohrmann said the snowmelt has so far been slow, and reservoirs do have some capacity. While he said this latest snowstorm is going to add to the problem, the real worry is what he called a “bolt out of the blue.”

"If all of a sudden, things warm up rapidly, and the melt increases, ice jams become a concern," Dohrmann said. "There's very little you can do to predict where those might happen."

Dohrmann said there's also the chance of a significant moisture event, while going through the melt. But he said major floods aren't what they used to be.

"What used to require a large state response, potentially even a call-out of the Guard — think 1997, 2009, 2011 — a lot of the work the state, counties and cities have put into flood mitigation has made a big difference," Dohrmann said. "So what might be a historic flood in 2023 may not need a large state response."

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