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North Dakota's fourth largest city faces flood evacuations

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - Officials ordered the evacuation of more than a quarter of the residents of North Dakota's fourth largest city of Minot, where massive flooding is expected to overwhelm barriers, authorities said on Tuesday.

About 12,000 residents were ordered to be out of Minot's flood threatened areas by 10 p.m. local time on Wednesday, the second evacuation for those neighborhoods this year, said Cecily Fong, the North Dakota Emergency Services department spokeswoman.

Heavy rains the last six weeks in the Souris River basin have left reservoirs in Canada full, forcing the release of water at rates far above the levels of protections offered by the city's permanent and temporary barriers, said Allen Schlag, a National Weather Service hydrologist in Bismarck.

"We have been riding a pretty thin edge and regrettably, the storms over the last several days have really pushed the Souris River basin into territory that we have never seen before," Schlag said.

The Souris River flows from Canada into the United States and eastward across North Dakota through the city of nearly 41,000 and then winds back north into Canada. Flows from the Souris make their way to the Red River.

Minot officials warned that water releases from Canadian dams and from Lake Darling Dam above the city could push river levels up to 8 feet beyond those reached during a flood in 1969 and far exceed record flood levels set in 1881.

(Reporting by David Bailey and Greg McCune)

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