Red River flooding forecast forces nursing home evacuations

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The threat of flooding from the Red River has placed several nursing homes along its edge in harm’s way. Some facilities in North Dakota and Minnesota were evacuating today as the river's water level continued its treacherous climb.

Four facilities in Fargo, ND, reportedly had begun moving residents by Thursday afternoon. Also, a 180-resident facility called Eventide in Moorhead, MN, was evacuating, said Jeff Bostic, director of data analysis for Aging Services of Minnesota. Two other facilities in potential danger in Minnesota were still considering whether to evacuate, he said.

It’s been predicted that the river would reach a record-high crest of 41 feet by the weekend. Sub-freezing temperatures reportedly had complicated sandbagging operations at the river earlier in the week. Because of the haste in which workers were sandbagging Thursday, however, the bags were moving too fast to freeze.

“Everyone’s taking it very seriously and trying to get it done in a planned way before it’s too late,” Bostic said of the evacuations.

The state of Minnesota has been working to coordinate safe transportation, he added. Meanwhile, the South Dakota Department of Health is working with North Dakota in identifying extra acute care, long-term care and assisted living beds in South Dakota, according to David Hewett, president of the South Dakota Association of Health Care Organizations.

Long-term care operators and hospitals have been working in recent years on emergency preparedness and planning, Hewett said. Minnesota communities have learned lessons regarding emergency preparedness as a result of smaller floods, according to Bostic.

The most memorable flooding of the Red River occurred in 1997. It was the most severe flood of the river in a century. This, people hope, won't surpass that.

“There’s still the hope this passes, not with no damage, but no significant damage,” Bostic said.

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McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.