STILLWATER, Minn. (WCCO) — Today’s snow could transform into tomorrow’s nightmare – a terrible dream the city of Stillwater has had before.

Located near the river, downtown businesses like the Zephyr Theatre are already thinking of the potential impact.

“We are above the 100-year flood plain, so we’re not anticipating any flooding issues with the actual building, but we are concerned about the parking lot,” said Calyssa Hall, artistic director.

Ahead of the spring thaw, city crews have been clearing away snow piles in downtown. On Monday, March 18, all parking lots east of Water Street will be closed so flood planning can begin.

“It’s really up to Mother Nature at this point,” Stillwater Mayor Ted Kozlowski said.

One of those preparations is building a dike of sandbags 10 to 15 feet tall, stretching the length of downtown.

“The good news is we’ve been dealing with this for about 150 years, so we’re getting pretty good at it,” Kozlowski said.

Kozlowski says one of the city’s most iconic features may pose a slight problem if there is major flooding. The Stillwater Lift Bridge is always up during major floods so debris can flow by.

“Because we are in the midst of restoring this beautiful 1932 lift bridge, that lift mechanism isn’t operational,” said Kozlowski.

MnDOT will have to lift the bridge manually, but they aren’t the only ones prepared to do some manual labor. More than 1,200 people have already joined the “Stillwater Flood Volunteers” Facebook group, ready to offer their time and physical talents to fill and place sandbags.

At this point, Kozlowski says the most likely time they will see flooding in this area is early to mid-April.

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