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Yep, it's December and the Mississippi River is flooding

This isn't the kind of weather warning Minnesotans usually expect in December.

There's a flood warning for areas just northwest of the Twin Cities in Wright and Sherburne counties. That's not the kind of weather warning Minnesotans usually expect to get this time of year.

Tuesday morning, the National Weather Service said there was a "long ice jam on the Mississippi River." An ice jam – aka ice dam – happens when pieces of ice build up on a body of water that has a current. The moving water is then held back and can cause flooding.

According to the City of Elk River Fire Department's Facebook page, flooding started last week and affected several roads.

In the most recent update, it's hit Otsego Park, areas near 101st Street, and some properties close to the river.

The National Weather Service said the flood warning will be in effect through 12:15 p.m. Thursday.

An earlier weather statement said the Elk River – which flows into the Mississippi River – has also been flooding. There's a flood warning for areas near the river, north of Orono Lake. That warning goes until 3:30 p.m. Thursday.

According to the NWS, the levels for both areas will either remain where they're at or slowly rise until the jam releases.

If the jam suddenly breaks and releases water too fast, it could cause flooding downstream, too.

The NWS says freeze-up jams like this usually result in minimal – if any – flooding. So by those standards, this jam is worse than usual and – according to North Wright County Today – "rare."

If you live in the area

Elk River's Fire Department says people can pick up sandbags at City Hall weekdays between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. You need to show photo I.D. The first 50 sandbags are free, but more can be purchased.

For more information, click here.

Flood safety

Officials warn people to stay away from flooded areas. Whatever you do, don't drive into the water because it's hard to tell how deep it is or what's even in there.

The NWS says 176 people in the U.S. were killed in floods last year. And most flood-related deaths happen in vehicles.

People often underestimate the force and power of water, according to the NWS. It only takes a few inches of fast-moving water to knock over an adult. A foot can carry away a small car, and 2 feet can carry away most vehicles.

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