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Wayne Karels had four feet of floodwater reach his home outside of Montevideo in 1997, and last year the waters came to within an inch of again flooding the home. He expressed concerns about the potential for flooding this year. He was among more than 200 people who packed the American Legion Club in Montevideo to hear Gov. Mark Dayton and other state officials describe flood preparation efforts. (Tribune photo by Tom Cherveny)

Flood preparation taking shape in western Minn.

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MONTEVIDEO -- Amid warnings to prepare for major flooding, more than 200 people on Friday filled the American Legion Club in Montevideo to hear Gov. Mark Dayton and public safety officials say they are ready to do all they can to help.

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"We're ready to respond to whatever occurs," Dayton said.

The governor said the state is preparing for widespread flooding.

Adjutant General Rick Nash of the Minnesota National Guard said roughly three battalions and ample supplies of heavy equipment are ready to respond to flooding needs in the Red, Minnesota, Mississippi and St. Croix river basins.

The National Weather Service is "absolutely sure" that major flooding will be experienced in the upper Minnesota River Valley, according to Dan Luna, director of the Chanhassen office.

Luna said the most recent flood forecast projects a 90 percent probability of reaching last year's flood levels in the Montevideo area, and a 30 percent probability for exceeding 2001 levels.

The severity of flooding will depend on how the melt occurs and how much moisture reaches the watershed in the weeks ahead. The National Weather Service is forecasting 8 to 10 inches of snow Tuesday into Wednesday, and long-range projections show two other major storms poised for the Midwest.

"We do know it is going to be a particularly active weather phase in the next two weeks," Luna said.

Area communities and counties are already actively preparing for what's coming. Montevideo has plans to erect a clay dike to raise the U.S. Highway 212 levee and the 1969 levee to meet the expected flood levels, according to Steve Jones, city manager.

Communities along tributaries to the Minnesota River are likewise preparing. On Hawk Creek, both Maynard and Clara City have plans to begin filling sandbags in anticipation of flooding. Mayor Richard Groothuis of Maynard noted that last year's flooding on Hawk Creek saw waters cover the 125-year-old city cemetery, the first time that occurred.

State Reps. Lyle Koenen, DFL-Clara City, and Chris Swedzinski, R-Ghent, said there have already been discussions in the Legislature about reserving state funds for both flood mitigation and recovery needs after the flooding.

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Tom Cherveny
Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.
(320) 214-4335
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