Just about at flood stage: Saturday morning updates

The St. Croix waters steadily rise, and the current forecast predicts that it will reach the official flood stage – 87 feet – overnight tonight. The water is already higher than the first crest.

The main news yesterday, reported just about everywhere, was the closing of the Stillwater Lift Bridge:

Three barricades were placed in the middle of Chestnut Street promptly at 9 a.m., and the event was nothing if not well-documented:

Now, the wait begins. With talk of an extended flood season, it’s unclear how soon the bridge could resume service.

Stillwater and the residents across the river have been linked by a bridge or ferry for well over a century, so severing the link can cause some changes to normal life.

Lakeview Hospital in Stillwater provides ambulance service in the area, and the Stillwater Gazette reports that it is stationing an extra ambulance on the Wisconsin side of the bridge to serve those residents. The article doesn’t say where patients would be taken, but presumably other hospitals (like Hudson) are closer than Lakeview when the bridge is closed.

When the bridge closes, the cars have to go somewhere, and Michael Foley at Hudson Patch has an interesting video showing the backups in Hudson during the afternoon rush hour.

Driving home from dinner in Minneapolis last night, I noted that the large electronic sign over Highway 36 near Roseville was alerting drivers to the bridge closing. When the bridge is closed, I’m always a little surprised to see notices so far from the river. For those of us who grew up here in the St. Croix Valley, the Stillwater bridge can seem like a very local thing, and those signs were a good reminder that people also use the bridge in longer journeys.

Beyond the bridge closing, the only real news yesterday was that Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton toured the area, and the state’s executive council extended the state of emergency Dayton called in Washington County and 45 other counties.

The Woodbury Bulletin has an update on preparations in Afton:

Afton’s Emergency Management Committee held a meeting Thursday to discuss flood preparations.

Currently Afton has 4,000 sandbags filled and 35 concrete barriers on hand to help with flood mitigation.

Additionally two pumps are set up on Afton’s levee. Pumping is expected to begin Friday evening.

“I think we’ll be OK,” [Afton public works director Ken] Johnson said.

On the upper river to the north, flooding hasn’t been a big issue yet, according to the Chisago County Press:

Levels of the St. Croix River in Chisago County have a ways to go before reaching potential flood stages. The river has had some major crests– in 2006 and in 2001; but so far the melt and downstream accumulation is shy of historic property damage levels.

The article has some context for levels at Grantsburg and St. Croix Falls.

This morning’s flood forecast has the river cresting at 88.6 feet early Thursday morning, about halfway between moderate (88) and major (89) flood levels. But all of this depends on how much it rains, and now we’ll watch for the storms expected this weekend.

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