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Blizzard dumps snow on flooded North Dakota

Workers bring sandbags to a home in the Harwood Groves neighborhood in Fargo, North Dakota. Photo courtesy AFP.
by Staff Writers
Fargo, North Dakota (AFP) March 25, 2009
A heavy blizzard dumped wet snow on volunteers rushing to fill sandbags and build temporary dikes to hold off rising flood waters in North Dakota Wednesday as officials prepared to use explosives to break up ice jams on swelling rivers.

President Barack Obama issued a federal disaster declaration for 34 counties and two Indian reservations and the entire state was under a major flood warning.

The storm's blustering winds knocked out power to towns across the largely rural prairie state and made many roads impassable as it dumped snow and freezing rain, officials said.

Several bridges and roads were already closed due to flooding as an unusually heavy snowpack began to melt on top of saturated land that has not yet fully thawed.

Low-lying homes across the state were evacuated as rivers and creeks spilled over their banks but damage had largely been restricted to water in basements.

No injuries were reported in a situation report issued at 7:00 am (1200 GMT).

Officials also evacuated 146 inmates from a jail in the state capital of Bismark, where the Missouri river was rising quickly as a result of a massive ice jam which stretched all the way to the border with South Dakota.

"Because of the blizzard we can't get a helicopter up in the air yet," Governor John Hoeven told KXnet news.

"As soon as we can, we'll have a helicopter up in the air putting explosives on that ice jam as well as probably large amounts of salt."

In Fargo, thousands of volunteers rushed to reinforce and top off dikes and levees as the mighty Red River, which was already more than 17 feet (5.2 meters) above flood stage was forecast to rise another five feet (1.5 meters) to record levels over the weekend.

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Winter strikes back in late eastern US storm
New York (AFP) March 2, 2009
Late-season snow and high winds punched through the eastern United States Monday, killing at least five people as the freeze snapped power lines, closed schools and snarled air and road traffic.

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