Measuring up

I don’t know when – or if – the high water will disable the Army Corps of Engineers’ electronic Stillwater river gage, but it looks like we’ll have another method of observing the river levels:

Yes, that’s a giant ruler. The third red line from the top is 694 feet above sea level, just below the record 1965 crest of 694.1 feet. (It’s easier to see if you click on the photo for an enlargement.)

Here’s another view, giving you some perspective on how much higher the water would need to rise to beat the record… and enable me to win the “guess the crest” contest.

That would be a little more than eight feet higher than the level when I took these photos.

Other views from the weekend:

A KSTP-TV satellite truck and minivan behind the Water Street Inn

South Lowell Park:

The Lowell Park gazebo:

The north riverfront parking lot, with concrete jersey barriers in place and ready to form the base of a temporary levee. While the city waits for the river to either flood or recede for the season, some of downtown’s largest parking lots are empty, used for neither cars nor a levee:

The orange fence in the foreground is the closest the public can get to the waterfront.

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Views of the 1965 flood

While we wait for the river to rise again, here are some great flood photos from 1965. That flood still holds the record for the highest St. Croix River crest. Use the full-screen button to see more detail.

Do you have memories of the ’65 or ’69 floods? Share them in the comments section below.


Thanks to Brent Peterson and the Washington County Historical Society for these photos.

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Al Franken hasn’t made up his mind about a new bridge

The Pioneer Press reports that Sen. Al Franken hasn’t yet made up his mind about whether to support efforts to pass legislation allowing a new bridge to be built south of Stillwater.

Like a driver trying to get through Stillwater, U.S. Sen. Al Franken said Saturday that he needs time before deciding whether to support a long-stalled plan for a new bridge over the St. Croix River.

“I’ve not made a decision,” Franken said after a meeting with community leaders near the Stillwater Lift Bridge. “But I’m trying to do a thoughtful process in making this decision, and I’ll be continuing this process over the next several days and probably weeks.”

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Sunday’s flood updates

For those of you who are catching up on the last few days of flood news, the St. Croix River crested on Thursday, but the Stillwater Lift Bridge remained open. This morning, the river appeared noticeably lower. With warmer temperatures, rain, and snow in the forecast for the next week, however, the waters will likely rise again. As we heard last week, a second crest is a real possibility. Indeed, the weather service issued a new flood warning yesterday:

THIS RIVER FORECAST IS BASED ON SATURATED GROUND FROM PREVIOUS AND
ON GOING SNOW MELT…AND OR THE PRECIPITATION RECEIVED OVER THE LAST
FEW DAYS…AND THE FORECAST SNOW MELT WHERE APPROPRIATE…AND THE
FORECAST PRECIPITATION OUT FOR THE NEXT SEVERAL DAYS. HEAVY RAINS WILL CAUSE EXTRA RUNOFF THAT WILL CAUSE RIVER LEVELS TO
RISE EVEN HIGHER AND FASTER THAN PREDICTED.

The current flood forecast shows predictions that the water will fall slightly in the next few days, before rising again and reaching flood stage by the weekend:

Yesterday’s warm weather had many people in downtown Stillwater looking at the flood preparations. The south half of the parking lot behind the Maple Island building has re-opened, accommodating River Market customers. But with the main riverfront parking lots remaining closed, parking downtown is more of a challenge than usual. If you’re heading downtown today, good parking options include the municipal ramp at Second and Commercial streets or the free lot at Second and Nelson, across from Teddy Bear Park.

Recent news coverage:

On Friday, the Stillwater Gazette wrote about Thursday’s crest and the closing of the county’s command post in Lakeland.

The Woodbury Bulletin talked with Afton business owners about the flood threat. A typical quote:

“We’ve lived through other floods,” said Sail Away Café owner Marj Weir. “You have a couple bad weeks, but you more than make up for it with good summers.”

The Hudson Star-Observer describes flood preparations there, including 8,000 sandbags filled by a team of volunteers led by a retired Army Reserves colonel with expertise in logistics. Church and scout groups have joined in.

And in Bayport, all 335 Andersen Elementary students filled sandbags last week, with students racing to compete with other classes.

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The origins of names: St. Croix River and the Boomsite

As we wait for the river to fall and likely rise again, the Washington County Historical Society has a couple of interesting items.

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Looking ahead to a second crest

The Stillwater Gazette posts a recap of yesterday morning’s community flood meeting. While the first crest is forecast for Friday at a level below flood stage (but high enough to close the Lift Bridge), a second crest will likely be higher.  Other items in the Gazette story:

  • Xcel Energy representatives discussed ways downtown business owners should prepare for the flood and potential utility disconnection.
  • Police Chief John Gannaway noted that while there are no current plans to restrict access to downtown, the city would require passes in the event of a major flood, as was done during the major 1965 and 2001 floods.
  • Information on preparations at the Andersen Windows factory, located along the riverfront in Bayport.
  • The Washington County Sheriff’s Department has set up a command post in Lake St. Croix Beach.

The National Weather Service posted a new outlook yesterday evening elaborating on the risk of a second crest:

A SNOWPACK STILL REMAINS IN THE UPPER MISSISSIPPI BASIN AS WELL
AS THE UPPER ST CROIX RIVER. IN ADDITION…SOME SNOW AND ICE REMAINS
IN THE CROW AND MINNESOTA RIVER BASINS. HENCE…AN INCREASED RISK
FOR FLOODING REMAINS WHEN THE FINAL MELT OCCURS.

THE EXTENDED WEATHER FORECAST KEEPS BELOW NORMAL TEMPERATURES
ACROSS THE REGION THROUGH THE END OF MARCH. TEMPERATURES WILL
REBOUND INTO THE LOWER AND MID 40S ON THURSDAY AND FRIDAY AND
INTO THE 40S FOR THIS WEEKEND. THE WARMER TEMPERATURES TOWARD
THE END OF THE WEEK WILL HELP TO MELT SOME OF THE SNOW PACK.
HOWEVER…A SIGNIFICANT MELT IS NOT EXPECTED AT THIS TIME.

AS THE FINAL MELT PUSHES MORE INTO APRIL…THE RISK INCREASES FOR A
RAPID MELT EITHER BY TEMPERATURES…A HEAVY RAIN EVENT OR BOTH.

Finally, Hudson Patch has a new gallery of Lakefront Park high water photos.

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Flood chart tutorial and Lowell Park photos

Do those 90-day charts mystify you? The weather service posted a helpful video explaining how to interpret them.

For the St. Croix, the charts show that based on the conditions last Wednesday, there is about a 50% chance of major flooding between now and the end of June.

For now, though, Stillwater is waiting, according to the Star Tribune:

In Stillwater, most of Lowell Park along the downtown riverfront was swamped Monday, and the Stillwater lift bridge could be closed this week. The city had planned to stockpile 100,000 sandbags, but stopped at 60,000, and hasn’t built a temporary dike along the riverfront because the crest predicted for late Wednesday is below flood stage.

Yesterday,  Lowell Park was about half covered by water and ice:

One of the “modified levees” at the south end of Lowell Park adjacent to the Dock Cafe:

Though the surface of the river remains mostly frozen, it’s risen dramatically. The clearance over the road here isn’t exactly 9’6″:

The Lowell Park gazebo is surrounded by frozen flood waters:

Sandbags, ready to go:

A view from the Freight House:

The same place five days earlier (on Tuesday):

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Flood forecasts

On Friday morning, I wondered if the cold weather was just a reprieve, or if it changed the overall picture for St. Croix flooding this spring. The latest forecast, published later on Friday, has a much better-looking prediction for the next 90 days. Find more information on the weather service site.

New:

The previous version (from Feb. 15):

Chances of levels over the next 90 days – new:

Previously – based on Feb. 15 conditions:

And indeed, this morning, the graph shows a crest later in the week followed by falling water. It will still reach 86′, the level where the bridge is closed, according to the weather service site.

 

 

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Friday morning flood news

After the on-off-on-off-on again flood levee stories of the past week, with the final “on-off-on” happening yesterday alone, there actually isn’t much new this morning.

In the latest forecast, issued last night, the river will reach 86 feet Monday afternoon or evening, closing the Stillwater Lift Bridge.

Other notes:

  • It isn’t new information, but it’s worth noting that the City of Stillwater plans to host a community flood information meeting Monday morning at the library.
  • In the St. Croix Valley Press, historical society executive director Brent Peterson recalls the local ice harvest industry, which started in the 1850s and lasted until 1964.
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Mondale opposes Bachmann and Klobuchar bridge proposals

Former Vice President Walter Mondale opposes efforts by Rep. Michele Bachmann and Sen. Amy Klobuchar to clear the way for a new bridge south of Stillwater. From the Star Tribune:

“I’m against it. This bridge as proposed should not be built,” said Mondale, now a Minneapolis attorney who was President Jimmy Carter’s vice president.

“I think that people ought to be soberly thinking about whether they want to assault the uniqueness and majesty of that river. This is establishing a dangerous precedent of the whole river system.”

Mondale’s opposition makes the news because as a U.S. senator, he was one of the authors of the 1968 Wild and Scenic Rivers law that originally preserved the upper river. (The lower river – south of St. Croix Falls – was added to the protected system in 1972.)

Sometime, I’ll provide a more detailed summary of the twists and turns of the Stillwater bridge controversy, but in short, this legislation would allow the project to proceed despite the Sierra Club’s successful lawsuit against it last year.

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