It was like a scene from the end of the Titanic. A mournful cellist played Bach by the waters of the Souris River in Minot, North Dakota, today as the town fought to brace itself from the worst floods in 130 years.
Today the city prepared for the worst as workers continued to bolster levees that stand between thousands of dry homes and the rising waters - which is expected to crest sometime after midnight tonight.
Workers sweated over sandbags as levees were built up to six feet above the level of the rising waters. Officials were worried that the levees might not withstand a crest predicted to last several days.
Song for sorrow: Minot residents watch Erik Anderson play various Bach compositions on his cello today as the Souris River neared its crest
Undisturbed: Erik Anderson said Bach's music is the core of who he is, so it just felt right to play by the water
Damage was already widespread, with Mayor Curt Zimbelman reporting more than 4,000 homes had been flooded in an evacuation zone of neighbourhoods nearest the river. About 11,000 people were ordered out earlier this week.
Mr Zimbelman said: 'I'm looking at these dikes right now and we're praying that we can hold at least this much water out. There's so much erosion going on, we're trying to save what we can.'
The river had been expected to peak Saturday evening at some 8 1/2 feet above major flood stage, but it appeared to be leveling off hours earlier as it approached 6 1/2 feet over that mark. Forecasters predict the floodwaters will continue to climb by two more feet.
More than a quarter of the city's 40,000 residents evacuated earlier this week, rushed to pack any belongings they hoped to save into cars, trucks and trailers.
Breached: A Minot home is flooded by the Souris River in North Dakota today. The water level is already over six feet
Holding on: Some homes have escaped the worst so far, while 4,000 houses have been flooded. Another 18 more inches of water is forecast before levels begin dropping
Fighting the floods: Volunteers work to repair a levee in Minot as flood water from the Souris engulfed entire neighbourhoods
Sgt. 1st Class David Dodds, a spokesman for North Dakota's National Guard, said the situation had 'kind of stabilized' today. 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,' he said.
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.
Warning: Flood waters begin to pour through a breached levee and flood the Minot Country Club today
Barriers broken: A home is seen submerged in flood waters from the Souris River, after sand bags failed to hold the water back in Minot, North Dakota
Almost gone: The Souris River nearly covers a camper and the roof of a house in Burlington, left, while right, a clay levee begins to fall apart near a house in Minot, North Dakota
'This has been a very trying time for our community,' Mr Zimbelman said. 'It's emotionally draining for all of us.'
As they had the past two days, emergency officials focused on protecting water and sewer systems to avoid the need for more evacuations.
'The river's coming up rapidly. It's dangerous and we need to stay away,' the mayor said.
Roof tops: Just the roofs of buildings are visible above the water the swollen Souris River which has consumed whole neighbourhoods