Riverside residents watch, wait for floodwaters to recede

A park covered in water.
A park area is covered in floodwaters along the St. Croix River in Hudson, Wis., on Tuesday.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

Rivers across the region — including the Mississippi, St. Croix and Red — continued to rise Friday, toward expected crests next week.

Recent rain and snow didn’t help, but there is good news: After Friday, dry conditions are in the forecast for the next week.

For most people in Minnesota and neighboring states, flooding doesn’t directly affect their homes or businesses. Levees and other flood protection measures built in recent decades have drastically reduced the damage and disruption caused by rising rivers each spring.

But for others, when the water gets as high as it has this year, it forces them to change the way they live.

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Mary Croft stands on the deck of her home surrounded by the flooded St. Croix River in Bayport, Minn. She and her neighbors have garages and storage spaces that are covered by flood waters.
Mark Zdechlik | MPR News

Along the St. Croix River in Bayport, Minn., Mary Croft and her neighbors are uprooted. Croft can’t park in her garage, which she had to clear out ahead of the rising water. Boxes and other items from storage now occupy the upper levels of her home.

Croft, who’s 77, showed the way to the stairs down to her lower-level garage and storage space. But she could only make it a few steps because the garage floor is under several feet of splashing, swirling water.

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Dozens of Bayport, Minn., condominium residents frantically rushed to clean out their garages and storage spaces ahead of the flooding. Now it’s matter of waiting for the water to recede.
Mark Zdechlik | MPR News

Sitting at the dining room table, the river is right there, just outside the picture window. Croft joked that a friend of hers wants to fish off her deck, and he certainly could.

“We kind of at first didn't think it would be so bad,” she said.

The river is forecast to crest next week just upstream at Stillwater at 89.7 feet — the highest level recorded since 2001.

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Mary Croft examines the flooded garage of her home along the St. Croix River in Bayport.
Mark Zdechlik | MPR News

A week earlier, the St. Croix was still within its banks and the grass that separates the river from the condos was coming to life.

“It was turning green last week when it was sunny,” Croft recalled this week.

Where people walked just days ago, there’s now several feet of water, ducks paddling above driveways and lawns.

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Floodwaters fill the lower-level garages of condos along the St. Croix River in Bayport.
Mark Zdechlik | MPR News

“I think people can't comprehend it,” Croft said. “I send pictures to my friends ... of the other buildings, and one of my friends said yesterday: ‘Are you in the water like that?’ And I said, ‘yeah.’”

After a frantic push to clean out all of the garages of those dozens of condos — now it’s a matter of waiting for the water to recede so the cleanup and return to normal can begin.

“I think the more worrying (thing) in a way, is how long we’re going to live under these conditions,” Croft said.

Hydrologist Craig Schmidt, with the National Weather Service’s Twin Cities office, said river levels will remain high for weeks. Recent rain and snow and rain delayed the expected crests of the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers in the Twin Cities from this week to next. Schmidt said the Red River will also soon crest at Fargo-Moorhead.

A building with water surrounding it.
Sandbags are stacked along the edge of a building foundation near the St. Croix River in Hudson, Wis., on Tuesday.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

“We still have major flood stage on the Minnesota River. We’ve got it on the Crow, we’ve got it on the Mississippi, the St. Croix. We’ve got it up in the Red River Valley. It’s everywhere still,” he said Friday. “And we’re going to continue to rise in the main stems through this weekend and into next week.”

Schmidt said that after Friday, Minnesota is not expected to see much precipitation for the next several days — which he says will go a long way in helping to bring down water levels.

“All of next week looks pretty dry. So we’ve got a good five, seven, eight days of dry weather coming, which is great news for the rivers,” he said. “This period of fairly calm conditions should be a huge help to our rivers.”

A playground surrounded by water.
A playground sits surrounded by floodwaters along the St. Croix River in Hudson on Tuesday.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

Back in another small neighborhood along the flooded St. Croix — this one in Hudson, Wis. —several residents aren’t able to drive to or from their homes.

“There’s a road that goes all the way down there, but you know it’s all covered now," said Dan Krusell.

Krusell’s garage is high and dry — but he can’t get his car to his driveway. Which means lugging groceries or anything else he wants to move from his car to his home through other people’s property.

Trees stand surrounded by water.
Trees along the St. Croix River in Hudson are surrounded by high water on Tuesday.
Kerem Yücel | MPR News

As Krusell sipped a cup of coffee, looking down toward the river from his patio, he talked about all of the stuff that’s been floating by.

“It gets to be a mess — logs, dock pieces, timbers, lifejackets, chairs — everything,” he said as he scanned the water. “Look at that — do you see way out there? It looks like a dock piece, too.”

Like people living along many rivers around the region, Krusell faces a lot of cleanup once the water recedes to normal levels — something that’s likely to be a weekslong process.

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