Flood preparations in Stillwater, April 2, 2020 (Greg Seitz, St. Croix 360)
The water is rising along the lower St. Croix, and local officials are preparing for high water (at the same time they are managing the coronavirus crisis).
An inch or more of rain that fell in the region last weekend sent the river heading back up, with a crest at “minor” flood stage forecast for next Wednesday, April 8. Precipitation in the next few days will determine what happens.
The National Weather Service predicts only a 20 percent chance flooding will rise to the “moderate” stage.
On Monday, when the forecast was revised to show higher flood threat, the mayors of two towns affected by flooding took to social media to explain what was happening.
“We have begun to install the stop-logs in the flood structure leading to the city docks and have tested and set the levee pumps,” said Bill Palmquist, Afton mayor. “We will continue to monitor the situation carefully.”
Stillwater mayor Ted Kozlowski said public works would begin working on flood mitigation first thing in the morning on March 31. The city’s parking lots along the river are all closed at this time for construction of a small levee. The Lift and Loop Trail is closed from the Zephyr Theater to south of Downtown.
The type of mass volunteer effort to build a dike that occurred last year, and several times in the past, will probably not be needed this year. And it won’t be possible, anyway, because of social distancing rules. Other options exist.
“Right now the river is continuing to rise, we’re not at the point where we would need volunteers and with COVID19 a large volunteer effort is not feasible,” Kozlowski said April 1. “I’ve spoken with the Governor’s office to be prepared, if the forecast were to change that we might need help from our National Guard to protect our downtown. Again, based on our current forecast our public works department can handle this. If we get a lot of rain 5-7 days from now we might need help from the Guard. Our Police Chief is also working thru emergency management and FEMA on this potential request as well.”
The National Weather Service sees several chances of severe weather next Monday to Wednesday, after a warm weekend.
“We are going to be subject to multiple disturbances early week and [windy nights] which will provide some chance for showers,” reports the latest NWS forecast. “Thunderstorms will become of more concern by Monday night and especially Tuesday as deeper mid level lapse rates overspread the region. The strongest in the series of waves appears to come through Tuesday with portions of the area in the warm sector.”
The agency says there’s a chance of some strong storms by Tuesday night.