MINOT, N.D. (AP) - Sirens wailed across Minot Wednesday as the swollen Souris River overtopped levees five hours ahead of a looming evacuation deadline, setting in motion what is expected to be the worst flooding to hit the North Dakota city in four decades.
The warning was followed by an announcement saying, "All residents must evacuate, Zones 1 through 9," prompting the last of nearly 11,000 Minot residents to leave their homes for a second time in a month.
Robyn Whitlow, 27, who was helping some residents move the last of their belongings, burst into tears when the sirens sounded at 12:57 p.m.
"I feel so bad for everybody," said Whitlow, a Minot resident who lives outside the evacuation zone.
The Souris River, which loops down from Canada through north central North Dakota, has been bloated by heavy spring snowmelt and rain on both sides of the border.
The resulting deluge is expected to dwarf a historic flood of 1969, when the Souris reached 1,555.4 feet above sea level. The river is expected to hit nearly 1,563 feet this weekend - eventually topping the historical record of 1,558 feet set in 1881.
Minot Mayor Curt Zimbelman warned Wednesday morning that the river would top the levees earlier than expected and said residents still moving their belongings from the evacuation zone should "do their last-minute thing and be prepared to move quickly."
The National Weather Service in Bismarck also issued a flash-flood warning along the Souris River from Burlington through Minot and Logan to Sawyer.