PIERRE, S.D. – Gary and Lynn Jensen’s normally manicured lawn is overgrown and is being overlooked because an urgency to protect their south Pierre home from the fast-rising Missouri River with a 4-foot-high fortress of sandbags.

“We’re probably going to have 3 feet of water in our front yard,” Gary Jensen said. “Why mow?” his wife added.

Dakotas residents along the Missouri River furthered preparations Saturday to guard against unprecedented releases from dams to drain the waterway, bloated from large inflows of rain and melting snow in Montana, Wyoming and western North Dakota.

Authorities in Bismarck, N.D., on Saturday ordered the evacuation of several dozen homes on the Missouri as the river’s waters continued to rise. Bismarck Police Chief Keith Witt said continued flooding meant the city can’t assure residents of emergency services.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers increased releases to historic levels Friday at the Oahe Dam a few miles upstream of Pierre and Fort Pierre, on the other side of the river.

Eric Stasch, operations manager at Oahe Dam, said the levels increased by more than 10 inches Friday, pushing the level above flood stage of 1,429.8 feet above sea level for the first time since the dam was completed in the late 1950s.

The corps is planning increased releases through Tuesday that would top the river out at a projected 1,434 feet above sea level.

The mayors of Pierre and Fort Pierre said Saturday that levees have been completed that would protect residents two feet beyond the highest flood forecast for the river. They said nearly all of the approximately 3,000 people living in flood-prone areas had voluntarily evacuated.