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Minnesota On Guard For Possible Flooding

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By James Schugel, WCCO-TV

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Officials say there’s a potential for serious flooding in the Twin Cities and across Minnesota this spring.

“Every river in the state of Minnesota is at risk this spring,” said Dan Luna with the National Weather Service. “And that’s something we don’t normally see.”

An updated forecast released Thursday predicts widespread flooding. And the National Weather Service says rivers in some areas could top their 2009 and 2010 crest levels.

“I want to stress today the urgency of the situation,” Luna said at the press conference Thursday afternoon. “Five times better chance of having record flooding this year than any other given year.”

The Red, Minnesota and Upper Mississippi rivers are the main concerns, along with the St. Croix River. Many southeastern cities still cleaning up from flooding last fall could also be affected.

The Red River rose to a record level in 2009 at 41 feet. There’s a 20 percent chance it could break that record this year, Luna said.

Up river in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, tens of thousands of people had to evacuate their homes back in 1997. Luna said there’s a 10 percent chance we’ll exceed that record this season.

And then there’s the Mississippi River through downtown St. Paul and on down South. There’s a 20 percent chance we could see an historical crest in St. Paul, perhaps the highest ever, according the National Weather Service. Low-lying parts of downtown will likely flood, including Warner and Shepard Roads.

It’s also likely that floodwaters will encroach on key highway crossings over the Minnesota River in the Twin Cities, including in Chaska and Shakopee and possibly Interstate 35W. The Stillwater Lift Bridge might have to close too along the St. Croix River.

The forecast also says flooding is likely upstream on the Minnesota, including at Montevideo and Granite Falls.

“There’s a 50 percent chance or greater of major flooding on much of the Minnesota River and much of the Mississippi River,” Luna said.

Snow came earlier, and there’s more than normal this time of year. In fact, there’s twice as much moisture in the snow than normal. Coupled with considerable thawing in the coming weeks, trouble could be ahead for much of Minnesota.

“If we have a rapid snow melt similar to last year, look out,” said Luna. “If we get significant snowfall, and I’m talking about a foot or more, in the next couple months and if that snow is heavy and wet, look out.”

Kris Eide, the state’s emergency management director, says people need to take the threat seriously and start planning now.

“Families should be preparing their emergency with communication information about how to get in touch with each other if there is some kind of evacuation recommendation. It means inventorying things in your home,” said Eide.

She also recommends that homeowners consider buying flood insurance before the snowmelt and spring rains. Flood damage is not covered under a standard homeowner’s policy, and there’s a 30-day waiting period before a flood policy goes into effect.

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