Chances remain high for major spring flooding in some Minnesota cities along rivers as a heavy winter snowpack melts, the National Weather Service said. But city officials remain confident their towns can handle high water that might approach 2001 flood levels.
The National Weather Service said Friday that the chance for major flooding in Montevideo, on the Minnesota River in the western part of the state, remains 80 percent, unchanged from last month’s outlook.
Montevideo City Manager Steve Jones said the latest outlook actually is optimistic.
“It appears to us the probability of high waters increases, but the probability of high, high water has decreased,” Jones said. He said the week’s daytime temperatures in the 30s, followed by cold nights, has meant a gradual thaw, and this weekend’s forecast was for less rain than earlier expected.
Jones said Montevideo had major flooding last year, but because many homes have been removed from a low-lying area after flooding in 1997 and 2001, few people noticed.
In Granite Falls, the latest outlook calls for a 30 percent chance of moderate flooding from the Minnesota, with a slight chance of major flooding. But Mayor Dave Smiglewski said he thinks his city is in for “some pretty significant flooding.”
The city is downstream from Montevideo and Smiglewski said “the water doesn’t disappear.” A community meeting on flood preparations is scheduled for Thursday, but the mayor said sandbagging probably won’t begin until the third week of March, since sandbags that freeze in cold weather are useless.
West of Minneapolis, chances of major flooding remain about 60 percent in levee-protected Delano on the south fork of the Crow River, according to the updated outlook. Parks, parking lots and some roads could see standing water, said Delano city administrator Phil Kern, but “pending a levee break, we should be in pretty good shape.”
In downtown St. Paul, the chance of major flooding on the Mississippi River has increased to 70 percent, up from last month’s outlook of 60 percent. The forecast indicates an 80 percent chance of at least moderate flooding in downtown St. Paul, where floodwaters forced Holman Field to shut down in 2001. The airport is now protected by a floodwall.
Other cities that could see flooding include Hastings on the Mississippi River, where the chances of major flooding are 70 percent, and Shakopee and Savage on the Minnesota, the National Weather Service said. Even minor flooding would inundate Highway 101 across the Minnesota at Shakopee.
While the last week of February was dry, helping the flood outlook remain relatively unchanged, the heavy snowpack in western and southern Minnesota is not melting as it should, weather service hydrologist Diane Cooper said.
“I think everyone is seeing the melt occurring in the (Twin) Cities, so they’re assuming things are starting to melt elsewhere,” Cooper said.
The weather service releases its next flood outlook on March 26 before beginning to issue river crest forecasts.
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