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Residents battle Rainy River flooding in International Falls area


The Rainy River just west of International Falls hit a record high level, and still the rain fell Sunday as volunteers rushed to sandbag in an effort to save homes, the Duluth News Tribune reports.

Minnesota Highway 11, a major thoroughfare in the town on the U.S.-Canadian border, remains closed to traffic, the newspaper reports. The highway in Loman, about 20 miles west of International Falls, was under 3 feet of water.

Just downstream from Loman, in Manitou Rapids, the Rainy River soared to 21.54 feet late Sunday night – up 6 feet in four days and now above the 21.04 feet record set during historic flooding in 1950, the News Tribune reports.

Officials blame the flooding on a wicked combination of snow melt and relentless rains in the last few days.

Downpours damped spirits of volunteers fighting to hold the river back over the weekend; 1.33 inches of rain fell in International Falls on Sunday, the National Weather Service reports. Monday called for clearer skies, with a chance for more rain Monday night.

A wall of sandbags on Sunday held about 2 feet of water from Ashley Belanger's home about 15 miles west of International Falls, she told WDIO. She and as many as 40 volunteers began to build the wall Friday as the river rose.

“We're just doing what we can. I mean you keep sandbagging and keep hoping the water is going to go down. And there is nothing else you can really do,” Belanger told the station.

Koochiching County sheriff's officials said volunteers had filled about 50,000 sandbags. Sheriff's officials pleaded for volunteers over the weekend.

Red Cross officials said more relief workers and supplies, including a second mobile feeding truck, were heading to International Falls Sunday and Monday, Northland's News Center reported.

Owners of Thunderbird Lodge on Rainy Lake in International Falls report that docks are submerged as the lake level has risen 3 feet above normal, the Associated Press reports.

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."

On Friday, Canada's Ministry of Natural Resources declared a state of emergency due to the rising water levels, the Rainy River Record reports.

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