By Bill Hudson

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Communities in the northwest suburbs are again keeping a close eye on the Mississippi River.

It’s all due to rising water levels caused by the formation of ice dams.

The ebb and flow of January temperatures is causing heavy flows of river ice.

Take a look at the Mississippi River upstream of Anoka and it might look a bit like the north pole.

Where massive flows of ice pile up, threatening to plug up water heading downstream.

“We saw a fox on that part over there, Brenda Hansen said.

Hansen walks her dog Cody along the river near the Coon Rapids dam. Where lately, nature’s putting on quite a show.

“I noticed the dam was freezing up too, when it was really cold and the water was just stopped there, and I imagine that’s making the situation worse,” Hansen said.

But it’s up stream, where naturally forming ice dams forced the closure of two parks in Elk River.

Just as quickly as the ice dam can form, plugging up a river’s flow, it can let loose. Like happened here. And when it did it dropped the river level a good four feet, in a matter of hours.

Trees bear the telltale ice rings where the water was. Giving the landscape a strange polar appearance.

“Then along the edges the ice is piling up,” Collin Adair said.

In Coon Rapids, Adair watched nature at work. Where ice piles block river channels, pushing floodwaters into parking lots and backyards.

“If the ice gets pushed downstream in warmer weather the ice breaks up and starts sliding down, then it pushes pressure on the dam,” Adair said.

For now, that pressure is subsiding, along with the threat of major flooding.

But winter’s reprieve will only lead to spring’s worries.

The most recent river gauge reading at Anoka has the river’s level fairly steady — about a half-foot above flood stage.

Bill Hudson

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