Minot flood to spare durum mill

by Josh Sosland
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MINOT, N.D. — Record flooding that began to strike the city of Minot this week appeared unlikely to severely affect a durum mill located there, but a major evacuation of seed was required at a grain business with locations spread across the city.

Minot Milling, a division of Philadelphia Macaroni Co., was “high and dry,” Kevin W. Schulz, a facility manager there, said yesterday.

“The mill is fine,” he said on June 22. “We may lose water, but for the time being we are continuing to run.”
Rail service also may become more limited for a time because of the flooding, requiring some re-routing and causing some delays, Mr. Schulz said.

Minot Milling operates a mill with 8,800 cwts of daily milling capacity in Minot. The facility was built in 1998.

Not as well physically situated for flooding is SunPrairie Grain, Inc., owned by CHS Inc. SunPrairie operates in eight towns in North Dakota. Within Minot, the business has five different locations. In recent days the company has moved to empty its seed inventories in anticipation of the flooding.

Also in anticipation of the flooding, a mandatory evacuation was ordered June 21 for all residents in a large zone encompassing a major swath of northern Minot. Sirens sounded the following day as levees began to fail. The city, located in north central North Dakota, has a population of approximately 42,000.

Early on June 23, the Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service of the National Weather Service observed waters at 1,555.7 feet, 6.7 feet above flood stage. The N.W.S. was forecasting an additional 7 feet of flooding by early the week of June 25, easily eclipsing the previous record flood levels of 1,558 feet in 1881.

While the mill is safe, Mr. Schulz said several of its 32 employees have been affected. A major scramble has been under way in the city by residents to empty belongings from homes expected to be hit by the flooding.

“I’m exhausted,” he said. “We have employees who have had to evacuate. It’s a complete mess. The dikes are breaking one at a time, and it’s going to get messier.”

In recent years, Minot has enjoyed a renaissance because of an oil boom in North Dakota, but for generations the city has been familiar in grain-based foods as the epicenter of U.S. durum country.

“The climate is ideal for durum production around here,” said Keith Deutsch, president of the United States Durum Growers Association. Poor weather this year reduced acreage, he said.

Minot for decades has been the site of the annual Crop Outlook and International Durum Forum. Scheduled for Nov. 8 this year, Mr. Deutsch said he expects the meeting to be held this year.

As of June 23, The Holiday Inn Riverside, where the meeting is scheduled to be conducted, has been evacuated but had not yet flooded, according to employees at another nearby Holiday Inn.

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