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NEWS | March 4, 2024

North Dakota National Guard Fights Missouri River Ice Jams

By Sgt. Michaela Granger, North Dakota National Guard Public Affairs

BISMARCK, N.D. - The North Dakota National Guard launched an aerial operation to respond to an ice jam on the Missouri River in Bismarck Feb. 29. 

Two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters deployed, repeatedly dropping 660 gallons of water to dislodge ice. The river crested at 15.43 feet and, due to mitigation efforts, fell nearly 2 feet and ended the day at 13.49 feet, dropping below minor flood stage.

The day before, a large ice jam caused the Missouri River to quickly rise above minor flooding levels, passing 14.5 feet and flooding low-lying areas along the shoreline. 

Gov. Doug Burgum signed an executive order declaring an emergency for Burleigh and Morton counties, activating the North Dakota State Emergency Operations Plan. All state agencies, including the NDNG, are directed to maintain high readiness and provide appropriate flood response resources.

“There were a lot of dedicated team members putting in additional hours to ensure North Dakota had a successful assessment,” said Maj. Gen. Al Dohrmann, NDNG adjutant general. “This accreditation proves our state partners’ ‘Work as One’ mindset. We all work together so that when North Dakotans are having their worst day, we are ready to respond to save lives and property.”

The NDNG worked alongside state, local and federal officials, including the governor’s office, the Department of Emergency Services, the Department of Water Resources, the Department of Environmental Quality, the Department of Transportation, the National Weather Service, the Army Corps of Engineers and Burleigh and Morton counties to coordinate a response to the ice jam flooding.

“Year after year, the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services has successfully led our state’s whole-of-government response to natural disasters and other emergencies with the utmost professionalism and preparedness. These consecutive accreditations are a testament to the extremely high level of services provided by the DES team and their emergency management partners across our state,” Burgum said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers committed to reducing flows from Garrison Dam upstream of an ice jam causing minor flooding on the Missouri River in Bismarck-Mandan, as state agencies coordinated with local and federal partners on a whole-of-government response. 

By 3 p.m., the two NDNG UH-60 Black Hawks were activated with bucket systems able to hold 660 gallons of river water each. The Guard crews repeatedly dropped the 5,000 lbs. of water onto the ice, dislodging a 20-by-20-foot section of ice on the first pass. Around 6 p.m., the ice began to move downriver. 

In four hours, the Guard crews dropped 118 buckets of water — more than 70,000 gallons.

“This was a group effort responding quickly to the ice jam. We continue to monitor the situation and the North Dakota National Guard remains ready to answer the call to support our state and communities,” said Lt. Col. Matt Voeller, NDNG director of domestic operations.



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