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Deluge in Ellendale

Depending on who you ask, anywhere from 6 to 8 inches of rain fell on Ellendale on July 19.

Damage to 24 homes along with churches and businesses has slipped through the cracks and needs to be addressed, said Charlie Russell, Dickey County emergency manager. Some homes are uninhabitable until repaired but the scenario is considered an "uninsurable damage incident," by disaster agencies and insurers, he said.

"This type of damage falls under no agency's umbrella to help," Russell said.

Ellendale received 7.5 inches of rain within 6 hours late July 19 and another 0.5 inches early July 20, according to Russell's measurements. The storm drains and sanitary systems were overwhelmed and sent water and raw sewage into dwellings along with some structural damages to mostly lower-income homeowners, he said.

Russell said he is in contact with the National Association of Voluntary Association, a network of foundations and corporate that help identify grants and assistance for unmet disaster response.

After 3 hours of rain there was 8 inches of water in the lower level of Heather Molan's home. The tub and toilet continued to back up for 18 hours, she said.

"We had a pretty big mess in our downstairs," Molan said. "By morning the water was above the third step on the staircase."

She and her four sons stood by with shop vacuums and additional sump pumps for 6 hours trying to get the water level to drop. All carpeting and drywall were removed from the lower level along with beds, furniture and storage items, she said.

The insurance company caps a sewer backup damage claim at $2,500, she said. The insurer didn't even want any more information, she said.

"I have no idea of what the total cost will be to fix and replace everything but it would obviously be a lot more that $2,500," Molan said. "It would probably be $10,000 or more easily."

Molan is in contact with the North Dakota Insurance Department and said someone is looking into her claim. She is also waiting for contractor estimates.

Molan said she plans to attend the next regular meeting of the Ellendale City Council at 6:30 p.m. Monday and said other residents plan to attend.

Ellendale Mayor Matt Thorpe said no one was injured from the flooding and city services did not fail. Crews responded and backup pumps worked with the main pumps, he said.

"We never lost any pumps," Thorpe said. "It was just that the pumps couldn't get water through the lines fast enough."

The city of Ellendale is waiting on legal advice in relation to the damage, Thorpe said. The North Dakota Insurance Reserve Fund is also looking at the situation, he said.

"We can't afford to predict everything," he said. "This just doesn't happen very often."

A rain observer in Ellendale reported an overnight storm total of 6.02 inches, said Allen Schlag, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Bismarck. This includes 5.55 inches on the night of July 19 and another 0.47 inches the early morning of July 20, he said.

These systems are normal and there are unusually large rainfall events at least once a summer, he said. It's just that they don't always fall on a city or where someone is measuring, he said.

The North Dakota Community Foundation has established the Ellendale Flood Relief Fund to assist individuals affected by the flooding. Make a tax-deductible donation at https://ndcf.net and search for Ellendale on the donate tab, or mail a check to North Dakota Community Foundation, P.O. Box 387, Bismarck, ND 58502 with "Ellendale Flood Relief Fund" in the memo line of the check. For more information, call (701) 222-8349.

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