By John Lauritsen

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The National Weather Service is calling this summer’s drought one of the 10 worst in state history.

Some rivers are reporting “scrapable” conditions in spots, which means boats would hit bottom if they tried to go through.

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“Some of our reservoirs are already approaching ’88 levels,” said Liz Nelsen of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

At Lock and Dam #2 in Hastings, barges come and go with ease thanks to a system built for times like this. But further upstream, the Mississippi headwaters tell a different story.

“For a lot of our reservoirs, as the conditions worsen we lower down to our minimal outflow. For the headwaters, five of those six reservoirs are below normal summer levels,” said Nelsen.

Experts said we would need about a foot of rain in one month to come out of this drought.

“We are in the bottom 5% for all time in terms of flow over the Mississippi,” said Tyler Hasenstein, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

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Even with recent rainfall, soil and moisture content is extremely low. So some of that rainfall that would normally flow into rivers isn’t getting there because the ground is absorbing it.

On many rivers, sand bars and rocks that haven’t been seen in decades are now exposed. It creates challenges for boats and businesses along rivers.

“We are kind of on the worst-case scenario part of the equation right now,” said Hasenstein.

That means we could be counting on a snowy winter to get us back on track. The National Weather Service is predicting a similar winter to last year – which wouldn’t be quite enough to eradicate a drought.

“Things could swing either way but for now it looks like we are going to have a similar winter to last year in terms in snowfall,” said Hasenstein.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says about half of our lakes are below normal summer levels right now.

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John Lauritsen