Lions and Tigers Evacuated as Historic Floods Hit North Dakota

Souris River rises as people and animals abandon homes.

June 24, 2011— -- The continuously rising Souris River has already reached a record high, set in 1881, in Minot, N.D., and it's still rising.

The historic flooding has forced more than 11,000 people from their homes, and giraffes, lions and other animals from the Roosevelt Park Zoo in Minot have been relocated in new homes.

Shelters continue to fill up. The Moses', a family of six, have been staying at the Minot Auditorium shelter for the last several weeks, since the first evacuation orders were issued.

"I'd like to be upset and just cry more, but it's not going to help," Denise Moses told ABC News Fargo affiliate WDAY. "It could be worse. So, I mean, it's just one step at a time."

The flooding has already made the local history books, and it is not done yet.

"The water is coming in deeper and faster than was expected," North Dakota's governor, Jack Dalrymple, said today.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has released pent-up water from the Lake Darling Dam, which will push water downstream toward Minot at 29,000 cubic feet per second – more than three times the record flow rate before this year and double the projections just four days ago. Those raging waters are expected to start pushing against the already buckling makeshift Minot levees rated to withstand water flows of up to about 9,500 cfs, according to WDAY.

The Souris River reached 1,558.52 feet above sea level at 12 p.m. Friday at the city's Broadway Bridge, according to U.S. Geological Survey data.

The National Weather Service is forecasting the river will crest at 1,564.5 feet by early Sunday, or 15.5 feet above flood stage. The level is expected to begin slowly falling early on Tuesday.

Authorities said today that "a large portion" of the 4,400 homes and 200 businesses that have been evacuated "will be inundated," according to City Council president Dean Frantsvog.

"Today and tomorrow are going to be big days for us," Frantsvog told The Associated Press early Friday. "We know the water is coming. It's coming soon."

Meanwhile, a few miles upstream, the town of Burlington, located where the Souris and Des Lacs Rivers converge, has given up sandbagging as a hopeless endeavor. The town of 1,000 people is expected to lose a third of its 320 homes to flooding.

"We're no longer able to save the city," Burlington mayor Jerome Gruenberg said Thursday.

Meanwhile, the Tanganyika Wildlife Park, in Wichita, has taken in nine animals from the Roosevelt Park Zoo in Minot, including three giraffes, two lions, a Siberian tiger, a Bengal tiger and two Amur leopards.

Other animals were sent to zoos in Minnesota, South Dakota and North Dakota, while some are being housed in a warehouse in Minot outside of the flood zone.

Minot is also home to more than just families and exotic animals - Minuteman III nuclear missile silos are also in the flood's path. At least two silos are being protected by sandbags and pumps, but are reported to be safe.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.