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Flood update: St. Paul emergency, Stillwater bridge closing, insurance help

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National Guard troops fill sandbags.
National Guardsman Joseph Martin tosses another sandbag onto a loading pallet near International Falls.
John Enger/MPR News

A U.S. Geological Survey hydrologist says most of the state is vulnerable to flooding at this point.  Survey crews are out measuring river flows and stream gauges in the wake of the heavy rains that have caused flooding in many parts of the state. 

• Officials say U hospital by mudslide is safe
• Soldiers add muscle to International Falls
  

"What that means to us and why that's a concern is that there just isn't a lot of storage out there in the rivers or the wetlands and lakes.  And so anywhere we get a lot of rain, we're pretty much primed for flooding," said USGS hydrologist James Fallon. Here's an update on the impact of flooding around the state.

St. Paul declares state of emergency

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman has declared a state of emergency as the city braces for the worst flooding it's seen since 2001.

The Mississippi River is predicted to rise another two feet before cresting in St. Paul on Thursday. At the peak, waters will reach a projected six-and-a-half feet above flood stage.

The disaster declaration would allow the city to seek reimbursement for flood related expenses if the federal government releases relief funds to Minnesota. St. Paul has already spent an estimated $1.7 million in preparation for flooding.

Fourteen cities and counties have made similar declarations.

Stillwater Lift Bridge closing

The Stillwater Lift Bridge connecting Minnesota Highway 36 and Wisconsin Highway 64 will be closed to traffic in both directions indefinitely to traffic at 10 a.m. Monday because of high water on the St. Croix River. MnDOT says drivers should use Interstate 94 or Highway 243 as detour routes.

Stillwater Bridge
Workers walk across the closed Stillwater Lift Bridge Monday, in Stillwater, Minn., Monday, June 23, 2014.
Monica Herndon/Star Tribune via AP

The National Weather Service says the river at Stillwater will continue to rise this week by more than a foot and crest sometime late on Friday. The prediction from the North Central River Forecast Center says the St. Croix may not start to drop significantly until early next week.

Fortifying in Warroad, International Falls

In northern Minnesota, crews are working to prevent rising waters from pushing into the city of Warroad on Lake of the Woods, said Joe Kelly, the deputy director of the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management for Minnesota: "They are doing some shoring up if you will, some additional work on a protective levy that usually keeps water out of Warroad."

Rainy Lake continued to rise Friday afternoon.
The scene at Rainy Lake. Heavy rains pushed the whole Rainy River system to a record flood stage.
John Enger/MPR News

To the east, near International Falls, crews have made a lot of progress gearing up for additional flooding and rising waters by fortifying and rebuilding dikes. They are also building breakwaters in front of the original dikes along Rainy Lake, said Koochiching County Board Chair Rob Ecklund. "It's looking better, the sheriff is actually talking about we're starting to get ahead on the sandbag production, so we're starting to stockpile some for addressing critical areas."

For the first time in nearly a week, officials are not asking for volunteers to fill sandbags in areas along Rainy Lake. 

  "We have not called for community volunteers today. Our community volunteers have been great. And we're asking them to rest because if we get a weather event, we may need them back. Right now we want people to recover a little bit, too," he said.

About 100 National Guard soldiers remain in International Falls, shoring up some areas of flood protection and filling sandbags. Officials will decide Monday if the soldiers can be released from flood fighting duty, Ecklund said.  

Predictions call for water levels on Rainy Lake to rise between 4 and 7 inches over the next two days. Weather forecasters are expecting drier than normal weather for the next week.

Gov. Mark Dayton will travel to Warroad on Wednesday as he visits some of the state's hardest hit areas.

Highway closures

Updated 12:15 p.m.

MnDOT has closed 15 river crossings or roadways due to flooding. Hwy. 169 remains closed between St. Peter and Mankato. Two Minnesota River crossings — Hwy 41 near Chaska and Hwy 101 in Shakopee — are closed in the metro area.

Flooding
O'Leary's, a gas station and bait-and-tackle store in Waterville, Minn.
John Cross/Mankato Free Press via AP

I-35W northbound will be reduced to one lane in Burnsville, starting at 7 p.m. Monday. The lanes should reopen by midnight. 

There are flood-related closings on many other county and local roads as well. MnDOT is urging drivers to use extra caution around flood zones, after two workers were struck and injured Sunday.

• Road closures: MnDOT's updated list

Insurance help

The Minnesota Department of Commerce says it has staff on hand to answer questions from businesses and consumers about filing insurance claims due to the widespread flooding. Commissioner Mike Rothman says the department has a one-stop-shop to help Minnesotans make informed decisions before and after they file claims. Click here to visit the site.

Submerged streets in Waterville, Minn.
A man walks down a flooded street in Waterville, Minn., Monday, June 23, 2014, to reach his property in the lagoons area of Lake Tetonka.
John Cross/AP

We have people that are working in our consumer response team who answer questions about insurance coverage, how to make a claim, whether you may even have insurance coverage at all for the particular item, and to help guide consumers you or me or whoever through the process," he said.

MnDOT workers injured

Two MnDOT workers were hurt over the weekend as they were preparing a stretch of Interstate 35W for work on flood protection. The workers were placing traffic cones Sunday afternoon when a car hit their truck. The 25-year-old driver from Mound swerved for an unknown reason and hit the MnDOT truck. 

One of the MnDOT workers, a 43-year-old Champlin man, was seriously injured and taken to Hennepin County Medical Center. The other, a 57-year-old Rockford man, was listed with non life threatening injuries and taken to Fairview Southdale. The driver  of the car that hit them was not injured.

Mankato flooding

Many cities are waiting to see if sandbags and levees can hold back more rain. But it's already too late for some. A handful of homeowners in Henderson had to evacuate on Saturday after a landslide. The Minnesota River has surpassed flood stage there, heading toward a Monday crest.

The Free Press of Mankato reported that Sen. Amy Klobuchar visited an apartment complex in the city, where 39 families were displaced when lower-level units flooded, as part of her tour to survey flood damage around the state.

"Right now what we're seeing is a statewide disaster, really,'' U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar said Sunday. "From International Falls on the Canadian border down to Luverne on the Iowa border, it really covered the whole state."

Showboat performances postponed

High water on the Mississippi River has forced the Minnesota Centennial Showboat to postpone a week of shows. The University of Minnesota says performances of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" from June 20 to June 28 have been postponed. Tickets purchased for those performances will be honored for future dates.

Managing director Peg Guilfoyle says the showboat has tried to let everyone who bought a ticket know about the flooding and how to re-book reservations. Guilfoyle says the showboat players have never had to postpone due to high water on St. Paul's Harriet Island. 

The high water has not damaged the showboat. Performances are planned to resume July 1 and will continue through Aug. 16 as scheduled.

State parks closed

Three parks remain closed: Blue Mounds State Park near Luverne in southwest Minnesota, Fort Snelling State Park just east of Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, and Franz Jevne State Park west of International Falls in northern Minnesota.