Rising waters cause concern in northern Minnesota

Walz declares peacetime emergency, authorizes National Guard support

Line of volunteers and sandbags
Volunteers lined the Red Lake River in Crookston to help with efforts to fill and place sandbags to keep flood waters at bay on Sunday April 24, 2022.
Jess Bengtson/Crookston Times

Updated: April 24, 3:45 p.m.

Gov. Tim Walz declared a peacetime emergency Sunday in response to flooding in northwestern Minnesota. The declaration authorizes the Minnesota National Guard to assist in supporting emergency flood operations, including with personnel and equipment.

“When our neighbors are in trouble, we step up to lend a hand,” Walz said in a statement. “I am proud that the Minnesota National Guard has answered this call to serve. The support of the Guard will be critical to ensuring the safety of Minnesotans during this difficult time.”

Flood warnings were in effect for several counties in northern Minnesota, as the combination of continued rainfall and snowmelt is causing waters to rise.

Officials in Crookston declared a state of emergency Saturday afternoon in anticipation of the major flooding forecast along the Red Lake River.

Crookston Police Chief Darin Selzler said water levels are currently at more than 26 feet as of Sunday morning, but that most parts of the city are protected up to 31 feet. The river is expected to rise to a crest of 28.5 feet by Monday afternoon.

Crookston volunteers
Volunteers help with efforts to fill and place sandbags along the rising Red Lake River on Sunday April 24, 2022.
Jess Bengston/Crookston Times

The National Weather Service lowered the forecasted crest after a change in river levels upstream. Forecasters are still expecting a flood of record in Crookston.

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Selzler said they'll consider evacuating low-lying areas of town if waters continue to rise. The Crookston Sports Center is being used as an evacuation center, and will remain open until waters recede.

"We’re still continuing sandbagging efforts of the vulnerable low-lying areas of Crookston along with the erection of clay dikes around the city,” Selzler said.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office had requested the National Guard “assist with emergency sandbagging, patrol of flood protection systems, and potential evacuation operations,” according to the statement from the governor’s office.

A state of emergency has also been declared in East Grand Forks and officials in that city and in neighboring Grand Forks have asked residents to cut down on water usage to help ease the strain on sanitary systems.

There are several road closures in the area. The Point Bridge will be closed beginning Sunday afternoon.

Flooded ditches along a highway
Standing water fills ditches and covers parts of farm fields along U.S. Highway 59 near Brooks, Minn., on Saturday, April 23, 2022. The combination of heavy rain and melting snow prompted forecasters to issue flood warnings across much of northwestern Minnesota.
Minnesota Department of Transportation

East of Crookston, the Minnesota Department of Transportation reported that State Highway 2 was closed from County Road 112 near Red Lake Falls over to U.S. 59 in Brooks due to high water.

In Cass County, officials urged drivers to be cautious when traveling on rural roadways. “Numerous township roads have water over the top of them and most gravel roads are proving difficult to travel down due to saturated soils and the thaw cycle,” the Cass County Sheriff’s Office said in joint statement with the Cass County Road Department and the Cass County Emergency Manager.

A washout along a culvert
A washout along a culvert is seen along St. Louis County Road 65, west of State Highway 73 north of Chisholm, Minn., on Saturday, April 23, 2022. County public works officials said a combination of heavy rain and melting snow had caused several washouts and road closures in the area.
St. Louis County Public Works

Northeastern Minnesota is also dealing with the impacts of high water.

St. Louis County Public Works crews responded to several washouts in the northern part of the county, caused by excessive rain and snowmelt. They’ve closed several roads as they work to repair culverts. On others, they've posted signs warning of high water.

County Road 65 near State Highway 73 west of Side Lake is among the roads closed. The county says more washouts are likely due to the continued rain. They're asking people in St. Louis County who see unsafe road conditions to call 911.