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After Seven Years of Disaster Declarations, North Dakotans Sick of Rain
By Blake Nicholson
Associated Press Writer

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - North Dakotans traditionally usher in summer by opening umbrellas instead of sunscreen. But after a week and a half of damaging heavy rains and flash flooding, waterlogged residents welcomed a chance to dry out.

"It's constantly gloomy," Daniel Kouba, a farmer in northeastern Walsh County, said Thursday. "Today we see the sun, and we are in our glory."

North Dakota officials plenty of practice in dealing with the aftermath of floods - this is the eighth straight year the state is seeking a federal disaster designation.

"There's good news and bad news," said Gov. Ed Schafer. "The bad news is ... it's difficult. People's lives are affected. Their incomes are affected. It's a very tough issue to deal with.

"On the good news side is, we've been dealing with it ever since shortly after I was elected (in 1992), and we've got a lot of experience in it."

Earlier this month, the Walsh and Pembina county commissions declared a drought emergency after two months of little precipitation. Since then, nearly 5 inches of rain has fallen in the area, flooding out some crops and hay land.

In Fargo, a downpour earlier this week dropped 7 inches of rain in 6 hours. Last week, some parts of Grand Forks County reported 20 inches of rain over two days.

Flooding has plagued various parts of the state since 1993, much of it around Devils Lake, a closed basin in north-central North Dakota. The lake has risen nearly 25 feet since 1992, gobbling up roads and fields and causing millions of dollars in damage.

One of the state's worst disasters was in 1997, when a winter of severe blizzards followed by Red River flooding forced the evacuation of Grand Forks.

Sunny skies finally arrived in flood-stricken areas Thursday, but in many cases, the wind kept people indoors.

"It's been a little slow - about half of what we're used to," said Ardis Aasen, owner of Apple Grove Golf Course in Minot. "I don't like that kind of weather. I thought we were going to get blown away."

Rain last week forced officials to close the course for two days, Aasen said.

In Grand Forks, pizza delivery driver Todd Thompson was enjoying the break from the wet weather, which he said makes driving harder and more frustrating.

"It gets to be kind of old after a while," he said Thursday. "Traffic will tend to slow down somewhat, some streets start to fill up. This is the first sunny day since last Sunday."

The weather pattern that brought the soggy conditions to the state is typical for this time of year, said Len Peterson, a National Weather Service technician in Bismarck.

In June, the jet stream moves farther north and allows moisture from the Gulf of Mexico to meet with cooler Pacific and Canadian air, producing severe storms that bring floods.

"On average, it's our wettest time of the year," Peterson said.

In Bismarck, rain fell every day but one between June 9 and 19, he said.

State Emergency Manager Doug Friez said he could understand the frustration with the weather.

"My concern is, how long can this go on?" Friez said earlier this week. "It's tough on people, it's tough on their way of life, and it's tough on the economy of the state."

AP-ES-06-23-00 0213EDT


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