WAITE PARK, Minn. (WCCO) – Patrons at a Waite Park restaurant were caught in a flash flood Saturday after authorities say an ice jam caused the Sauk River to overflow.

Chunks of ice are still scattered around Anton’s Restaurant.

“We are very fortunate. You can see the ice blocks around you, that none of this struck the building or came through windows,” said Patty Gaetz, who is married to one of the owners of the restaurant.

Within an hour, a flash flood filled the restaurant with a few feet of water. Waite Park Fire Chief Jim Aleshire says about 44 people were stuck inside. The river flooded just before 7:30 p.m., according to a Facebook post from the restaurant.

“It was a lake around here,” Aleshire said.

The Waite Park Fire Department requested mutual aid from St. Joseph and St. Cloud. First responders used three boats and were able to get everyone safely out of the restaurant by about 9:30 p.m.

“As help came in, we ended up getting three boats here and got additional help and just started ferrying people out of the building,” Aleshire said.

Anton’s has been flooded before. The last time was a decade ago, but it has never come without warning like this weekend.

“We keep a close eye on it this time of year. We are no strangers to flooding, but it certainly doesn’t happen every year and this has never happened,” Gaetz said.

“I am sure some people were a little panicked when the water started coming up that fast. We’re assuming it was an ice jam upstream that let loose and filled them up in a hurry,” Aleshire added.

Rising water isn’t just a concern in Waite Park. Communities across Minnesota are under flood warnings, including Watertown in Carver County.

The Crow River has risen to 12 feet at Rockford, and flood stage is at 10 feet.

In Hastings, volunteers filled sandbags this weekend, preparing for the Mississippi River to crest around 20 feet next weekend, which is 2 feet above flood stage.

Back in Waite Park, owners of Anton’s say they should be covered by flood insurance and they hope to be up and running again within days.

“There is still a chance we will see a spring flood – we will see what Mother Nature decides to do,” Gaetz said. “We are keeping our fingers crossed, which is about all you can do.”

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