NEW ULM, Minn. (WCCO) — The Minnesota River is expected to crest this weekend in New Ulm and city officials are bracing themselves for what could be one of the worst floods in the city’s history.
Last week, the fast flowing Cottonwood River crested, taking part of Cottonwood Road along with it. Not far away, the Minnesota River kept creeping closer to the Johnson family, who live in a row of homes at the lowest point in town.
“We don’t get to see the river until it’s in our backyard, and by that point, it’s too close for comfort,” said Alicia Johnson, who lives near the river with her husband and young son.
For the past week and a half, the city of New Ulm has worked hard to turn her backyard into a towering clay dike.
“As it panned out, we built the dike to sea level of 814 feet, and the river right now is right at 805 feet,” said city manager Brian Gramentz.
Gramentz said crews got a head start on the waters by bracing themselves for the worst, just in case.
“Probably over prepared to be exact,” said Gramentz. “Reaching the potential for the worst floods we have had in New Ulm in a long, long time.”
The threat has moved Gramentz and Alicia Johnson to rally Minnesota lawmakers for the money to build a permanent dike, which would cost an estimated $2 million.
Johnson is grateful for the temporary dike, but with this year’s flooding still uncertain, she hopes the future permanent dike can protect her family.
“We have been working hard on trying to get that approved with weekly neighborhood meetings and things like that,” Johnson said. “This is an awakening that the river is going to continue to go up at some point.”
According to National Weather Service records, the Minnesota River could reach its highest flood stage in New Ulm by Sunday morning.
It could be in the top five for historical crests, with the last record flood topping out at 811.03 feet back in April of 1997.