Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Seeing History Being Made

Russ and the gentlemen at Farmers Union Oil Co. in Westhope, ND did a fine job of repairing our vehicle; it ran smoothly the entire way home.  We took Hwy 83 south toward Bismarck; and because we were in the area, we took advantage of the opportunity to turn off onto Hwy 200 and go to Riverdale, ND so that we could see an historic even in progress: the water being released from the spillway gates of the Garrison Dam.

(Remember: click on any photo to enlarge it for greater detail.)

Faithful Reader, you may recall that, last fall, our family toured the Garrison Dam power plant and spent some time frolicking at the recreation area at the pond at the base of the dam's spillway.  Looking north from the pond, this is what we saw back then:

What looks like a fence railing along the top is actually the series of gates that make up the spillway.  On the other side of those gates (to the north) is Lake Sakakawea, formed by Garrison Dam's stopping up of the Missouri River as it flows south.  To the west of the spillway is the power plant, through which water from the Missouri flows out of Lake Sakakawea and continues south--so the Missouri River enters Lake Sakakawea near Williston in northwest ND and exits the lake here in central ND and then continues alongside Hwy 83, flows between the cities of Bismarck and Mandan, and goes on through SD and southward on its way to the Gulf of Mexico.

In the photo above, notice the closed spillway gates and the dry concrete leading downward from the spillway to the pond beneath it.  The spillway was built for emergencies: just in case the water level rises too high in Lake Sakakawea and threatens the integrity of the dam by trying to spill over the top of it, the spillway gates can be opened to release water, which would flow out of the gates and down the concrete of the spillway, into the spillway pond, and southward, forming its own channel on its way to join the Missouri River south to Bismarck and Mandan.  Since the dam's completion in 1953, the spillway gates have never been opened to relieve the dam of dangerously high water . . . until now.

Yep, if you have paid any attention to national news in recent months, you know about the record snowfall in the mountains of MT that is melting and running off into the rivers that feed the Missouri River; and you know about the record rainfall in MT and ND that is further increasing the water level in the river; and you know about the resulting flooding that is damaging property and cities all along the river.  Each dam along the river is needing to release water to protect the dam, which further raises the water level for riverside cities downstream--a terrible domino effect that is damaging all sorts of property in communities throughout several states.

It was a sad reason to visit the Garrison Dam today, but to see the water shooting out of the spillway gates was impressive in its own way.  We parked in a lot to the north of the spillway, and a sheriff held traffic so that we could walk across the highway to view the spillway from an area to the south of the dam and on the west side of the gates.  (Yes, so many people have been coming to view the open spillway gates that the county has stationed a sheriff there to facilitate pedestrian traffic across the highway.)

Here's a view of the spillway gates from the north side, which is the lake side of the spillway.  Water is being flowing from this side out those gates onto the concrete spillway on the other side.
And here is the water rushing out each of the gates from Lake Sakakawea onto the concrete spillway on the south side of the dam.
The dry concrete from the photo we took last fall is no longer dry.  This is looking southward from the spillway gates.
Susan took this photo from the window of the van as I drove east on Hwy 200 back toward Riverdale.  The water rushing out of the spillway gates has formed its own channel across the countryside and flows off as far as the eye can see.  At some point, it meets up with the Missouri River, raising the river's water levels for flooded and flooding cities to the south, including Bismarck and Mandan in ND.
Here's a zoomed-in view of the gates with water rushing out of them.  It's impressive to me that technology designed and built half a century ago, and never used for its purpose between then and now, should function just as planned.
Here's a video clip to show the water in action. 

After leaving, we continued on our way to Bismarck and stopped at the hospital to see my stepmom.  She has been hospitalized for weeks (remember?) but is looking much better: she's eating better than before, has more strength than I've seen for a long while, and even suggested that we all go with her down the hallway to a room with an organ in it so that I could play some songs for her to hear.  She got herself into the wheelchair, and I played the organ for a bit before having the girls play their piano recital pieces for Grandma and Grandpa.  Beverly anticipates being released within the next few days, and she will be very happy finally to be home again.

After hospital visiting hours ended, we stopped at Kroll's Diner for supper and now are home.  Thanks to vehicle troubles, we had a longer weekend away than planned, making it all the nicer to be home again now.

1 comment:

  1. The flooding has turned into an epic event. Seems like there's never good news. So sad that they actually had to open the flood gates at Garrison Dam as well.