With a threat of still more rain looming, Minot was bracing today for the Souris River to cascade past its already unprecedented level and widen a path of destruction that had severely damaged thousands of homes and threatened many others. City officials were expecting the river to peak as early as this evening at some 8 1/2 feet beyond major flood stage and remain there for several days, straining the city's levees to the limit and overwhelming some of them. Forecasters said there was at least an even chance of additional storms in coming days. "A rain event right now would change everything. That's the scariest," Mayor Curt Zimbelman said.
After a flyover yesterday, officials estimated at least 2,500 homes had been swamped and predicted the number would rise to 4,500 by the time the river crests. The predicted crest was lowered a foot based on new modeling by the National Weather Service, but it was little consolation in Minot, where Gov. Jack Dalrymple said frantic efforts to keep the floodwaters at bay soon would give way to a daunting recovery challenge. "The stress of this incident is going to build up very quickly," he said. Meanwhile, residents were resigned: "I hate to see something go to hell after 40 years," said one. "There ain't much you can do."