Elk River prepares for ‘some flooding’

by Jim Boyle
Some places in Minnesota are bracing for flooding, while others are preparing.
Elk River happens to be one of the places preparing.
“Thankfully, Elk River has fared pretty well historically,” said Elk River Fire Chief John Cunningham.
That being said, Cunningham and others around Sherburne County are closely monitoring the situation and ask that residents do the same.
The chief told the Star News this past week he will go to the Elk River City Council on Monday for some direction on how to distribute more than 15,000 sand bags it has.
Cunningham said he wants to make sure people prepare themselves, especially those who live in low-lying areas that have experienced flooding in the past. Sherburne County has already sold 250 sand bags, which is more than usual by this time of year.
For some, it makes sense to contact their insurance company, Cunningham said.
City and county officials recently attended the governor’s conference in St. Paul to get appraised of the situation in the state. The Mississippi, Minnesota and Crow rivers are expected to flood this season. Just how much is not known yet.
From an emergency preparedness standpoint, the focus is on the potential need for an evacuation or having to re-route traffic. One area of concern is Highway 10 in between the rising Mississippi River and Great River Energy in Elk River.
“A lot will depend on how the snow melts,” Cunningham said. “If it melts gradually, that will benefit everyone a lot.
“If we get a whole bunch more snow, and it stays cold and then we get a lot of rain, then we might be looking at a different story.”
The best people could hope for is a long stretch of temperatures in the mid- to high 30s to low 40s during the day and overnight in the low 20s, Cunningham said.
A large swath of the country is at risk of moderate to major flooding this spring, from northeastern Montana through western Wisconsin following the Mississippi River south to St. Louis, National Weather Service flood experts are forecasting. These experts will release a national spring flood outlook on March 17.
If the current forecast holds, the Mississippi River is at risk for moderate to major flooding from its headwaters all the way to St. Louis.
“The good news is we know it’s coming,” said Jen Callahan, the emergency services director for Sherburne County.
“Usually we don’t have a heads up with disasters.”
National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) flood forecasters point to several reasons for the anticipated floods.
The ground in much of the north-central United States is frozen, water-saturated, and snow-covered.
In March and April, as temperatures rise and the snow melts, frozen ground and saturated soil will enhance runoff, causing streams and rivers to swell. The timing and the rate of snow melt and any rain that falls during snow melt contribute to the magnitude and extent of flooding.
“Excessive precipitation, mainly in the form of snow, coupled with continuously frigid temperatures has yielded a thick snowpack in much of the Upper Midwest. We expect significant flooding when this snow begins to melt,” said Lynn Maximuk, central region director of the National Weather Service. “We urge residents in risk areas to closely monitor NOAA’s river forecasts and warnings, and prepare now for flooding.”

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