Minnesota braces for flooding on Mississippi, other rivers

Published 5:40 pm Tuesday, April 18, 2023

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STILLWATER — The Metropolitan Airports Commission temporarily shut down flight operations for much of Tuesday at the St. Paul Downtown Airport while crews installed flood control barriers to hold back rising water on the Mississippi River.

St. Paul, Stillwater and other Minnesota communities have been busy preparing for major flooding on the Mississippi and St. Croix Rivers, which are swollen with water from one of the snowiest winters on record in the region. Temperatures in the 80s last week accelerated the spring melt.

The St. Croix, on the Wisconsin border, was expected to reach major flood stage in Stillwater on Wednesday night and crest Friday before beginning a slow retreat. The city’s temporarily levee should be high enough, officials said.

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“We’re in pretty good shape,” Shawn Sanders, the city’s director of public works, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “We’re just worried about if it’s going to come up higher, if we would have to do anything else, but other than that, we’re doing OK.”

The St. Paul airport, which serves private, corporate, state government and National Guard aircraft, sits on a bend in the Mississippi River, which is expected to reach major flood stage in downtown St. Paul on Thursday and crest on Sunday. The 4-foot-high temporary floodwall, which can be extended to 8.5 feet, also shortens the airport’s primary runway.

St. Paul closed major roads along the riverfront last weekend in preparation, as well as several flood-prone parks.

Gov. Tim Walz on Monday signed a bill to provide $40 million to replenish a disaster aid fund that the state can tap for responding to expected flooding across the state.

On Minnesota’s western border, the Red River of the North was expected to reach major flood stage at Fargo-Moorhead on Thursday and crest Sunday. Officials expect it to be manageable given the extensive flood protection measures the cities have taken over the past 14 years.