RED WING, Minn. (WCCO) – Volunteers spent Tuesday at Prairie Island Indian Community in southeastern Minnesota filling sandbags in preparation for spring flooding in light of the warm weekend forecast.
Although emergency managers says the recent weather (with warm days and below-freezing nights) has been ideal for a gradual melt, there’s concern for this weekend, when temperatures are expected to climb well into the 50s and nighttime lows above freezing.
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Lu Taylor, of the Prairie Island Tribal Council, is one of many in the community who remember the 1965 flood that forced people to evacuate the island, which is home to Treasure Island Resort and Casino, by boat.
“At that time there were three homes under water, because they were in the floodplain,” she said.
To prepare for possible weekend flooding, volunteers packed sandbags. While one packing event was held Tuesday, two others are scheduled for this week.
“For us it’s traumatizing because we have a nuclear power plant in our backyards,” resident Nicci Lehto said.
Yards that could soon be cut off from the rest of the area if flood waters reach the main road.
Emergency Management Coordinator Schyler Martin said his team is monitoring snow melt in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin. What happens there will affect what happens on Prairie Island, which is located just off the Mississippi River, about 10 miles northwest of Red Wing.
If the water rises to flood levels, it could easily affect travel on the island, as there is only one road in and out.
“There is no other way on or off the island than by boat if we lose that road. We are truly an island,” Martin said.
Of course communication is key in situations like this.
“We have made trigger points for when we would have to evacuate the island and that includes Treasure Island hotel and Casino,” Martin said.
At least 100 residents would have to be evacuated and anyone in the casino.