A break from the rain, but flooding woes impact much of Minnesota


Most of Minnesota got a break from the rain for the past two days, giving public officials and residents a chance to start surveying flood damage from our recent record-breaking rainfalls.

Many communities are preparing for rivers to crest at unusually high levels for this time of year, particularly in the southern half of the state. Dikes are being built to protect private properties and public facilities, while low-lying roads, parks and trails are closed due to flooding.

The National Weather Service says several rivers could cause moderate to major flooding in the days to come, including the Crow, Minnesota and Mississippi rivers.

In St. Paul, the Metropolitan Airports Commission is deploying a temporary floodwall around the St. Paul Downtown Airport in preparation for potential flooding along the Mississippi River. The Mississippi is expected to rise for the next several days, reaching a crest of 20 feet later next week, the Pioneer Press reports.

Harriet Island park along the river is also closed to visitors because of the high water, and several streets near the river are closed to traffic as well.

In Minneapolis, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers opened the Upper St. Anthony Falls lock gate to let more water to pass through and reduce the potential flood risk upstream, MPR News reports. A Corps spokesman said the action will lower the river level by a couple of inches.

Roads remain closed throughout the state, especially in the south. You can find a full list of road closures and other flooding issues here.

The bad news is that rain is back in the forecast for the next several days, and the severity of the flooding will depend on how much rain falls, according to the Star Tribune. Minnesota is already very close to breaking rainfall records for the month of June, with nine days left in the month.

“If we start adding 2, 3, 4 inches of rain, all bets are off,” said Craig Schmidt, a hydrologist at the National Weather Service in Chanhassen. “There’s just nowhere for this to go."

It's going to take more time to total up the flood damage around the state. The water needs to recede first before an accurate assessment can be made, state officials say. If the amount of damage to public property statewide totals $7.3 million or more, the state can ask for federal assistance to cover the cost.

Minnesota emergency management director Kris Eide says damage estimates are between $5 million and $6 million already,with just a handful of counties in Minnesota reporting, so it's quite likely the state will qualify for federal disaster assistance, which would pay 75 percent of the costs of repairs.

Last year state lawmakers set up a $3 million contingency fund to pay for disaster relief without needing to call a special legislative session. But Gov. Dayton said Friday "there's a very good chance that we'll exhaust that fund," according to the St. Paul Pioneer Press. It's possible that lawmakers will be called for a special session during the summer to approve more money for cleanup and repair.

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