Riverside residents watch, wait for floodwaters to recede
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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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.
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.
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.
“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.
“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.”
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.
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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