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Heavy rains, rising waters threaten parts of northern Minnesota with flooding

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Residents along the Minnesota-Canada border are stacking sandbags and staying wary, as an expected influx of rain threatens to flood the Rainy River region.

Northland's News Center was in International Falls, speaking with residents and city officials as they prepared for the water. An owner of a resort on Rainy Lakes tells the station all his docks are underwater, but he hasn't lost any yet (maybe due to weighted barrels and hundreds of sandbags) – but Koochiching County Sheriff Brian Jespersen called them "lucky," as he's dealt with many calls regarding lost boats and docks.

The region has been hit with strong winds and heavy rain in recent days, compounding the problem. Rainy Lake, the Duluth News Tribune explains, is 2 feet above its target water level, after having gained 4 feet since the start of April.

YouTube user Melody Hensel captured some of the brutal conditions with a video uploaded Friday.

"With high water and 45 mph winds, our dock was being torn from it's rock cribs," she writes in the video description. "We were working to move barrels full of water that were being bounced around by waves, trying to save [the] dock."

According to WCCO, at least 600 homes in the area have been affected by the weather in the past two days.

Surrounding Area

Kabetogama Lake – just east of International Falls, and separated from Rainy Lake by Voyageurs National Park – also battled high winds this past week, and the rain has left docks and beaches underwater, Northland's News Center reports. One resort owner called it the worst devastation he's seen in 25 years.

Northland's News Center got video from the owner, which you can see below.

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An engineering adviser on the International Rainy-Lake of the Woods Watershed Board tells the News Tribune they anticipated high water levels due to melting snow, and opened all the dams as wide as possible to adapt. But all that rushing water raises concerns about possible flooding west toward Lake of the Woods.

Over that way, Baudette, Minnesota and Rainy River, Ontario are doing their own prep work.

On Friday, Canada's Ministry of Natural Resources declared a state of emergency due to the rising water levels, the Rainy River Record reports. A spokesperson for the town – which is just across the Rainy River from Baudette, about 90 minutes west of International Falls – tells the paper it's a "precautionary measure." But the numbers don't look good.

"Last Thursday it was at 18 feet ... then it dropped to 15 feet ... now it is at 19 feet and it keeps rising," Town Clerk Veldron Vogan said. "We might be alright if it doesn't rain anymore for a few days, but it doesn't sound good in the forecast."

HIghway 11 in Emo, Ontario (between International Falls and Baudette), was closed due to a washout, the Net News Ledger reported. Anyone heading to nearby rural areas were told to only cross the border at Baudette-Rainy River and avoid less-traveled roads.

The Forecast

Rain, rain and more rain is in the forecast for International Falls this weekend. The National Weather Service has issued a hazardous weather forecast for the area. Showers are likely all Saturday with heavy rain moving in Sunday. Wind gusts could reach 25 mph.

The same warning was issued for Baudette, which is facing similar rain Saturday and Sunday. Storms are more likely in that area however, with winds topping out around 21 mph, the National Weather Service says.

As for Kabetogama Lake, rain through Saturday with some heavy rain Sunday.

Said Koochiching County Sheriff Brian Jespersen, to Northland's News Center: "[W]e know the water is gonna come up. It's just a matter of how much at this point."

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