Rivers and streams across Minnesota barely had begun receding Friday when a new weekend storm took aim at the state. But if there’s a bright spot in the storm clouds rolling in, it’s that they won’t bring as much rain as forecasters initially feared.
The National Weather Service downgraded its weekend prediction of 4 to 5 inches of rain to just 1 or 2. That might be enough to slow receding floodwaters, forecasters say, but it shouldn’t send rivers and creeks rising again.
That better-than-expected forecast, however, is small comfort to Minnesota communities that have been pounded by weeks of severe storms and heavy rain.
In waterlogged Waterville, Gov. Mark Dayton spent Saturday touring flood damage with emergency managers and local officials. Volunteers spent Friday filling sandbags, grimly bracing for more rain. Floods already have damaged or destroyed a number of homes in the lakeside resort town in southern Minnesota.
“Tornadoes come and go and once they leave, you can go in and start cleaning up. Floods stay,” said Waterville Mayor Stephen Mihalik, who was busy sandbagging Friday. “It’s like watching a tornado happen for months.”
National Weather Service hydrologist Craig Schmidt said parts of the state might still be hit this weekend by intense, isolated storms capable of delivering several inches of rain along with large hail, high winds and possibly, tornadoes.
Adding to the region’s misery, the forecast calls for rising temperatures, meaning crews working on storm cleanup Sunday could face heat indexes in the 90s, Schmidt said. The Weather Service is urging people to stay hydrated and take precautions in the heat.
“Be careful,” Schmidt warned.
Around the region, the slowly receding floodwaters remain a source of inconvenience and misery.
In St. Paul, several heavily traveled roads remain closed and Harriet Island is nearly covered by the swollen Mississippi River, forcing next weekend’s Taste of Minnesota festival to relocate to the Carver County Fairgrounds in Waconia.
Rides closed, exhibits ruined
In Shakopee, three rides will remain shut down through the weekend at Valleyfair because of floodwaters that spilled into the park and across its parking lots. In Mankato, which remains under a flood warning, the Children’s Museum of Southern Minnesota lost almost all its exhibits when stormwater swamped its warehouse.
And in the west metro area, water levels receded enough Friday to lift wake restrictions on Medicine Lake in Plymouth. Water levels on the Mississippi, Minnesota and Crow rivers were dropping, but cities are preparing sandbags and monitoring pumps while keeping a wary eye on the forecast. The biggest level of concern: cities along Minnehaha Creek.
The record-setting water levels on Lake Minnetonka and the creek have affected many homes and places like Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park. The creek flows through Minnetonka, Hopkins, St. Louis Park, Edina and Minneapolis.
“Most of the cities are ready with sandbags,” said Eric Waage, director of Hennepin County Emergency Management. “We’re not starting from scratch.”
In Wayzata, city crews put out a call for volunteers Friday to help fill sandbags after stormwater flooding threatened three homes. “We’ve never seen the water as high as it is,” said Dave Dudinsky, public works director.
More rain on the way
It’s the same story in every corner of the state, from far northern Warroad — where volunteers have thrown up clay and concrete barricades around the swollen Lake of the Woods, which is 2 feet higher than it was in early June — to southern Minnesota, where a mudslide near Lanesboro covered part of Hwy. 250.
The Weather Service expects the worst of the weekend storms to hit along the southern third of Minnesota.
The state has $3 million set aside in emergency funds, but Gov. Mark Dayton noted this week that the money is unlikely to go far with almost three dozen counties under a state of emergency. But he said that before he can recall the Legislature for a special session, rivers and creeks must recede enough for the state to tally the damage. The state will begin assessing damage in early July.
This is the wettest June since 1874, with more than 11 inches of rain so far.
Jennifer Brooks • 612-673-4008