Fears of flooding beginning to intensify
ST. PAUL -- Flood experts are delivering a simple warning to people across Minnesota: "Look out."
"If we have rapid (snow) melt, look out," said Dan Luna of the National Weather Service's Twin Cities office. The same is true, he added, if there is significant new snowfall or rainfall on frozen ground.
Already, most of the Upper Midwest has more snow than usually falls in an entire winter. "And we still have a good two months of winter," Luna said.
Of most concern to Luna is the entire Red River, the Mississippi downstream of Minneapolis, the Minnesota south of Granite Falls and all of the St. Croix. But, Luna said, all Minnesota streams, large and small, are threatened.
"We don't expect the situation to get better, and it could get much worse," he said.
In the Minnesota River valley, for instance, precipitation already is twice the normal level. On parts of the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers, flooding is five times more likely than normal, Luna said, and a there is an 8 percent to 10 percent chance of record flooding.
He joined disaster leaders Thursday to urge Minnesotans to prepare for flooding.
Most important, they said, is that Minnesotans go to their insurance agents and buy flood insurance. It is available across the state, said Tina Armstrong of the Commerce Department, but there is a 30-day delay between when it is purchased and when coverage begins.
Luna said flooding could begin along the Minnesota River in late March and the Red River in early April, although it all depends on the weather.
Director Kris Eide of Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management said preparations should not stop there. Appliances such as water heaters could be moved off the floor.
People who need help preparing for floods can contact their local emergency management offices, Eide said, and volunteers often are available.
"People need to take this flood threat seriously," she said.
Among things they can do is preparing a plan about how family members would contact each other if a flood occurs. They also should take photographs of all of their possessions for insurance use if their homes are flooded, the director said.
People in flood-prone areas also should assemble emergency kits, Eide said.
Kent Lokkesmoe of the state Department of Natural Resources said that despite the dire warnings, many communities are in better shape to prevent serious flooding than a few years ago because they have built defenses such as dikes.
Still, he said, many communities have not completed their flood-control projects and they remain in danger.
Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.