Spring flooding

Pivotal week as flood levels rise on major Minnesota rivers

A gif showing the river rise over time.
A timelapse of the Minnesota River at Morton, Minn., from April 5 to April 12.
compiled by Elisabeth Gawthrop | APM Research Lab

Updated: 1:05 p.m.

Rivers across Minnesota are about to edge into major flood levels, with some of the most serious flooding in years here and in neighboring states.

The city of St. Paul closed riverfront roads Sunday night. In Stillwater, the St. Croix River is just a few inches below the last big crest the city saw in 2019.

Gov. Tim Walz on Monday signed into law a bill that will send $40 million to the state's disaster assistance fund. Walz and others said they expect the money will be tapped by communities that experience flood damage over the next several weeks.

Here’s a look at the status of rivers and regions around the state.

The Red River and NW Minnesota

Officials in Fargo, N.D., are expected to provide an update later Monday. The Red River is up about 4 feet from Friday and rising quickly.

The National Weather Service North Central River Forecast Center is predicting the river will hit major flood stage there by this weekend, and rise about 11 feet in the next week.

There's a lot of snowmelt, and potential rain and cooler temperatures are complicating the picture for some of the tributaries there. About 40 minutes north of Fargo, the Wild Rice River at Hendrum, Minn., rose 9 feet this weekend.

Ice jams are also a concern. The Red flows north, and that means the river valley melts more slowly downstream.

Ice helped push the Red Lake River in Crookston, Minn., 4 feet higher there overnight, rising more than 10 feet since Friday. Forecasters say it should peak Monday along with the Marsh River in Shelley, Minn., about 30 minutes southwest of Crookston.

The Arrowhead region

With Duluth close to breaking its all-time seasonal snow record and expecting more rain, flood conditions are likely to worsen. High water led St. Louis County to close 11 roads Sunday from right outside Duluth through the Iron Range and the edge of the Boundary Waters wilderness.

A huge swath of northeastern Minnesota — from the Canadian border, down to near Bemidji and south to Brainerd, east to Hinckley, Duluth and Ely — is under a flood warning Monday morning.

The National Weather Service says the Mississippi will be within inches of topping the levy in Aitkin, Minn., by the end of the week — potentially topping the flooding seen in 1997.

St. Croix River

Aerial views of sandbagging06
People sandbagging along the St. Croix River in Stillwater, Minn., on March 27.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News file

The river officially moved into the moderate flood category overnight, as the water rose about 8-9 inches since Sunday morning. It's only about 2-3 inches below the last major flood in Stillwater in 2019, and the water is likely to top that this week.

The water in Stillwater is still expected to be a couple of feet lower than the crest in 2001, which was at 92.3 feet, and well below their all-time high, set at 94.1 feet in 1965.

Stillwater mayor Ted Koslowski said he thinks his city will be able to keep the floodwaters at bay.

“It doesn't look like at this point, we're going to have to increase the height of the levee or do any additional work to secure anything” Koslowski said at a press conference Monday. “My understanding from MnDOT is the [lift] bridge is fine. They've lifted it temporarily just to allow kind of debris and things to go through. So, right now everything looks good. So I'm just really looking forward to a dry couple of weeks.”

Twin Cities region

There are some crests already approaching. The Rum River in St. Francis is expected to crest on Wednesday while in the moderate flooding stage. It’s some of the highest water seen there seen since 1972.

Flood waters from the rising Crow River have forced the city of Delano to close some roads and riverside pathways. The Crow is expected to crest late Tuesday night at Delano at 19.2 feet. The city has closed the Bridge Avenue river bridge, a well-traveled river crossing to its downtown because of dangers associated with the high water. City officials said the closure leaves people with about a two-mile detour.

St. Paul has started to close some of the roads along the river downtown and on the city’s West Side. The Mississippi has come up about 3 feet since Friday, and is likely to come up another six feet at least — although there are a lot of flood protections there.

Minnesota River

Conditions don’t appear as difficult on the Minnesota River. The levels around Mankato are high, but the river expected to stay at a minimal flood stage comparable to high water in 2013, 2016 and 2017.

The river is expected to go up another 3 feet in Jordan this week but not into major flood stage. There are some roads closed in far western Minnesota. But the bellwether road for the Minnesota River, State Highway 93 south of Henderson, Minn., closed last week and reopened Friday.

Sauk River

Rising waters on the Sauk River have prompted the Stearns County license center drive-through in Waite Park to remain closed. According to the county’s Twitter account, the center will still be open for service but will close when the building closes at 4:30 p.m.

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