MINOT, N.D. – The flooding Souris River appears to be leveling off in Minot.
National Weather Service meteorologist Patrick Ayd says only slight changes in the river's level are expected Sunday. He says a storm that hit Minot on Saturday night had little effect.
Ayd says a river crest may not be declared until late Sunday.
Early Sunday the river was less than 7 feet above major flood stage. The river's levels didn't change during the night by more than fractions of an inch.
North Dakota National Guard soldiers are monitoring a submerged pedestrian bridge to make sure it doesn't break loose in the river channel.
Guard commander David Sprynczynatyk says the bridge has been trapping debris and could harm nearby levees. If it comes loose, soldiers will remove it.
The river had been expected to peak Saturday evening at some 8.5 feet above major flood stage, but it leveled off hours earlier and the National Weather Service dropped the projection by nearly 2 feet as upstream flows weakened.
It was a brief boost for a city that has already taken a heavy blow. Mayor Curt Zimbelman said more than 4,000 homes had been flooded in an evacuation zone of neighborhoods nearest the river. About 11,000 people were ordered out earlier this week.
Sgt. 1st Class David Dodds, a spokesman for North Dakota's National Guard, said the situation had "kind of stabilized" Saturday. The Souris' channel wasn't getting any wider.
"The fact that more homes aren't being engulfed or being touched by the water, that's the one silver lining if you can even say there is one," Dodds said.
North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple said he was encouraged.
"It looks to me like, barring any rainfall ... the (flood-fighting) plan looks like it's holding up very well," he said.
City spokesman Dean Lenertz said updated estimates of the flood's toll were being prepared. The city's water, sewer and electric power systems were still working. Workers labored to keep the Broadway Bridge, a major north-south thoroughfare, from being overwhelmed, a possibility that would divide the city in half.
Fed by heavy rains upstream and dam releases that have accelerated in recent days, the Souris surged past a 130-year-old record Friday and kept going.
Dalrymple spoke Saturday to flood evacuees at shelters at Minot State University's Dome, an indoor track and basketball arena, and at the City Auditorium. Thirty-seven people stayed at Minot State's shelter Friday night, and 237 people bedded down at the auditorium, the governor said.
Dalrymple noted that although thousands had been displaced, relatively few were staying in shelters.
"It just seems like people are so well grounded here with, like, friends and family," Dalrymple said. "They're used to asking people to support each other, and they find places to go."
The Federal Emergency Management Agency pledged assistance to flood victims in the state.
In nearby Burlington, more than half of the town's 1,000 residents left late this week to escape the Souris.
Sawyer, a town of about 350 people, was under a mandatory evacuation order Saturday after the Souris flowed over the main dike around daybreak. National Guard soldiers worked on a secondary levee. Mayor Cy Kotaska said about three homes had been flooded
The National Guard activated 870 members for the crisis. Minot is best known as home to an Air Force base responsible for 150 Minuteman III missiles in underground launch silos scattered over 8,500 square miles in northwest North Dakota.
Col. S.L. Davis, commander of the 91st Missile Wing, said there was some "localized flooding" at a handful of missiles sites because of the wet spring and summer. But he said the silos are designed to safely handle some water and protective measures were taken at a few sites similar to what's done in preparation for spring runoff from snowmelt.