The onslaught of spring storms is creating significant flooding issues along the Red River Basin in North Dakota and Minnesota.
The situation has escalated to the point that Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz has declared a peacetime emergency and authorized the Minnesota National Guard to assist with emergency flood operations in several counties where emergency operation plans are already activated.
The Guard was specifically requested to help in Polk County, where sandbagging and other flood defense measures are needed as floodwaters from the Red Lake River have already overflowed numerous roads and highways.
A message to the public from Polk County officials on Saturday reads: "DO NOT ATTEMPT TO DRIVE AROUND A CLOSED ROAD BARRICADE. THIS IS DANGEROUS!"
Hit particularly hard by flooding is Crookston, where the Red Lake River has risen to 26.5 feet Sunday afternoon, with the National Weather Service predicting it to reach a record level of 28.5 feet by 3 p.m. Monday. Flood stage is at 15 feet, so the river is way over its banks.
The Red Lake River's record height of 28.4 feet was set during the disastrous 1997 floods, which saw the nearby Red River reach a record 54.3 feet and devastate Grand Forks, Breckenridge and other communities.
The latest projection for the Red River at Grand Forks is to rise to 48.5 feet by Wednesday, which would be the sixth highest in recorded history. It's currently at 40.2 feet.
Oslo, the small town located north of Grand Forks along the Red River, is known to close off from the world when the river floods because there are only two roads going in and out of town. And this year is no exception, as the Red River is forecast to rise from its current height of 34.5 feet to 38 feet by Thursday. That would be just shy of the record 38.4 feet in April 2009 and would tie the mark from the 1997 flood.
Flooding issues have rapidly worsened in recent days due to numerous storm systems pounding the area with rain and snow. Two to four inches of rain fell from Friday to Sunday morning, and light precipitation was still falling Sunday.
“When our neighbors are in trouble, we step up to lend a hand,” said Gov. Walz. “I am proud that the Minnesota National Guard has answered this call to serve. The support of the Guard will be critical to ensuring the safety of Minnesotans during this difficult time.”