Upper Midwest flooding

Blue skies, cold nights, slow waters

  • Article by: BILL MCAULIFFE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 28, 2011 - 9:04 PM

Stillwater is getting by without a levee, and towns saw lower crests come and go earlier than expected. The pattern looks like it will hold for the next few days.

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Stillwater city crew worked on moving sand bags along the downtown river walk. It is flooded and the lift bridge may close.

Photo: Elizabeth Flores, Star Tribune

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Ready, set, wait.

Cooler-than-normal temperatures continue to transform expected flooding across Minnesota into something more like a bad leak, putting the region into a "hold pattern," said Diane Cooper, service hydrologist for the Twin Cities office of the National Weather Service.

Across southern Minnesota, the Minnesota River has already crested and begun dropping slightly downstream from the metro area, while the Red River along the Minnesota-North Dakota border is holding steady at a low level. The next few days should bring more of the same, with snow and ice melting slowly during the bright, sunny days and refreezing at night.

But a sudden warm-up or rain, or both, could lead to high water quickly, including subsequent crests on rivers that have already crested, Cooper said. Neither the Twin Cities nor Fargo are expected to see an overnight low above freezing until at least Sunday. The Twin Cities had an overnight low of 18 degrees Sunday into Monday; 30 would be normal.

"The nice thing was that freeze. It really slowed things down and let people catch their breaths," said Scott County Emergency Management Director Chris Weldon. Hastings public works director Tom Montgomery said conditions have been "perfect."

The Minnesota River at New Ulm had been predicted to remain at peak into Tuesday, but had already dropped Monday morning from its Sunday crest. A peak predicted for Monday at Mankato actually passed Sunday, and the river began dropping Monday.

A peak is predicted for Jordan just after midnight Tuesday. At St. Paul, downstream from where the Minnesota joins the Mississippi, the river is expected to rise about 2 more feet to a peak Wednesday morning.

The South Fork of the Crow River at Delano peaked late Sunday and dropped several inches Monday.

In Stillwater, most of Lowell Park along the downtown riverfront was swamped Monday, and the Stillwater lift bridge could be closed this week. The city had planned to stockpile 100,000 sandbags, but stopped at 60,000, and hasn't built a temporary dike along the riverfront because the crest predicted for late Wednesday is below flood stage.

In New Ulm, there haven't been any surprises, thanks in large part to a 3,000-foot-long levee built in recent days. A gas line broken by the flooding Cottonwood River Saturday was replaced with a temporary line.

Roads continue to be closed due to high water, however. Another Hennepin County road was closed Monday because of flooding. Hwy. 144 along the Crow River near Rogers will remain closed until further notice. The closure is about 2 miles west of Hwy. 101.

Marking another first for this year's flood season, the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District opened the Grays Bay dam at Lake Minnetonka, last week -- the first time that's ever been done while the lake has still been ice-covered. The move is intended to make room in the lake for meltwater and reduce the potential for sudden high flows along the creek through the western suburbs and Minneapolis.

Taryn Wobbema, Kevin Giles and Nicole Norfleet also contributed to this story. Bill McAuliffe • 612-673-7646

  • about this series

  • An early spring and a rapid snow melt forced communities in Minnesota and North Dakota to quicken their flood fighting efforts.
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