Changing plans for the Stillwater levee

The Stillwater Gazette has more details on Stillwater’s decision to delay starting work on the dike due to a lower forecast. Later in the day, however, the forecast rose again.

Downstream, the Gazette notes that sandbagging and other preparations are now underway in Newport and St. Mary’s Point, and will begin soon in Lake St. Croix Beach.

As for Stillwater, it sounds like we’ll wait and watch the ever-changing forecasts. The city is ready to build the dike on short notice, according to the Gazette. As police chief John Gannaway put it:

“The good news is that we are prepared and have all of our resources in place to begin construction on a very short notice,” Gannaway said.

The updated NWS flood outlook due out today didn’t materialize, though I saw a note elsewhere that it will come out tomorrow. With luck, it will provide better context that the forecast graphs. Did the cold weather avert the major flooding, or merely delay it?

Update: According to the Associated Press, Stillwater will start work tomorrow on a “modified levee”:

Officials planned to start work Thursday morning, then held off pending a firmer forecast. Police Chief John Gannaway says the National Weather Service now projects a first crest slightly above 687 feet, about a foot higher than expected earlier in the day.

So the city now plans to start Friday on a “modified levee” at just the lowest elevations of the originally planned dike, at the very south and north ends. The work should be finished by this weekend.

The weather service reiterated to city officials that Stillwater is not out of the woods. The melt north of Stillwater has not been completed, and the city could see more flooding, including a second crest, later on.

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A lower, later crest?

Stillwater police chief John Gannaway in the Star Tribune this morning:

In Stillwater, the National Weather Service is projecting a lower crest to occur around March 30 or 31 for the St. Croix River. That update prompted the city to delay Thursday’s scheduled construction of a temporary levee “until we get further information,” said Police Chief John Gannaway.

“During the spring flooding season, the St. Croix River has historically been one of the last rivers in the state to crest,” Gannaway said. “We anticipate a second crest, but as [for] what level and what time frame, we are not sure.”

 

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Thursday Morning Flood News

While there’s a lot of coverage of the rising waters in southern Minnesota and the south metro, there are few St. Croix items in the news this morning:

Stillwater Gazette: Washington County declares a state of emergency

MPR: Stillwater will begin building the flood dike today. (Fences and concrete jersey barriers – like those seen in road construction – have been present for days already.)

A WCCO TV report from Stillwater:

KARE 11 has a report from Prescott:

We’ll probably hear more after the new flood outlook is released today.

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Some help from the weather?

The weather service has a new forecast out for the Stillwater this evening, showing the river tapering off about a foot below flood stage. That’s a lot different than what we were seeing a few days ago.

Prediction graph

On the one hand, it rained and snowed a lot last night. But it’s also cold again. So what does that mean? Here’s the latest flood warning:

THIS RIVER FORECAST IS BASED ON THE SNOW MELT OVER THE PAST SEVERAL DAYS AND THE PRECIPITATION RECEIVED OVER THE LAST FEW DAYS INCLUDING MONDAY NIGHT THROUGH WEDNESDAY. THIS WILL LEAD TO RIVER FLOODING
THIS WEEK AND THIS WEEKEND.

But:

UNCERTAINTY REMAINS TO HOW MUCH OF THE PRECIPITATION FELL AS RAIN VERUS SNOW…AND HOW MUCH OF THE LIQUID WILL REFREEZE WITH THE COLD TEMPERATURES COMING IN THE NEXT FEW DAYS. LOW TEMPERATURES THIS WEEK ARE EXPECTED TO FALL WELL BELOW FREEZING. HIGHS WILL BE IN THE LOWER TO MID 30S…SO LITTLE ADDITIONAL MELTING IS EXPECTED THROUGH THE WEEKEND.

A new Spring Flood Outlook is due out tomorrow. Hopefully that will help illuminate the latest thinking for the St. Croix.

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Today’s Flood News

Some of today’s flood news stories:

  • The Stillwater Lift Bridge is closed today to allow Mn/DOT to test the lift mechanism. If (when) the river gets too high, they’ll need to close the bridge and leave the lift span open. There are some great photos — which I hope to post later — of people canoeing across the flooded bridge during the 1965 and 1969 floods.
  • The Country Messenger wonders if the lift bridge could survive being submerged again.
  • Stillwater employees and volunteers filled 60,000 sandbags last week before operations were suspended. The city plans to begin constructing the dike today or tomorrow. Community Thread is organizing the volunteer efforts.
  • The Woodbury Bulletin looks at preparations in Afton
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Guess The Crest

Greg Seitz at the very popular St. Croix River Facebook Page is asking people to predict the St. Croix’s crest as measured at the Stillwater gauge:

The river is rising — the only question is how high it will go…

Think you have your finger on the pulse of the St. Croix? Post your best guess for the maximum crest! Enter this informal crest contest and win a cool piece of St. Croix River heritage.

The prize is a 1977 issue of National Geographic featuring the St. Croix and other rivers included in the Wild & Scenic rivers act.

My entry? 94.3 feet, a few inches above the record 1965 flood. The odds of that happening? Less than 18 percent, according to the forecasts. A new forecast is due tomorrow, so we’ll see how this week’s sloppy weather changes things.

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Welcome

What is this blog?

In the coming days and weeks, major flooding is predicted for the St. Croix River. Here, I’ll compile the most recent information I can find – charts, photos, and news stories - to let you know what’s happening.

My Background on the River

I grew up in the St. Croix Valley, enjoying childhood summer weekends on our family’s houseboat north of Stillwater. The family later sold the boat, and I was away from the river for several years but couldn’t get it out of my mind. Finally, about six years ago I started boating again and found that the river was just as remarkable as I remembered it.

While the 2011 floods will be my focus for now, I plan to continue blogging about the river after the waters recede.

Finally, because I’m based in Stillwater, I’ll need your help to stay current on what’s happening on the Upper St. Croix.

About The Name

Historically, the St. Croix Boom Site, located north of Stillwater, was where logs from many lumber companies were sorted before being sent south to the mills. After the end of the lumber industry in 1914, it became a popular recreational destination and remains one today. Located at a bend in the river, the Boomsite has great views of Stillwater as well as the river to the north. It seemed to be as good of a name as any for this new blog.

Thanks for reading!

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