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As river crests, Granite mostly rests easy

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News Willmar,Minnesota 56201 http://www.wctrib.com/sites/default/files/styles/square_300/public/fieldimages/1/1130/20100324032310gffloodftbrge.jpg?itok=VJ9ikgOm
West Central Tribune
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As river crests, Granite mostly rests easy
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

A number of rural homeowners stayed with their homes as rising waters from the Minnesota River surrounded them and forced road closures in the Granite Falls areas on Tuesday, but no serious problems were reported.

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Floodwaters on the Minnesota River were expected to crest at 893 feet in Granite Falls today, which would be 6.3 feet lower than the record crest of 899.3 feet in 1997.

The difference between the crests -- and 13 years of flood mitigation work -- were evident in the community, where the rushing waters of the Minnesota River were the cause of more curiosity than panic.

"We keep asking ourselves: Shouldn't we be doing something?"' Mayor Dave Smiglewski said. He said the city's flood mitigation efforts had shown their worth. Very few sandbags were pitched, but lots of people were lining up along the river to snap photographs of the churning waters.

Some very large sandbags -- each an estimated 2,000 pounds -- were lined up to protect the Yellow Medicine County Historical Society Museum on the city's south side.

There were also sandbag dikes erected along two homes west of the community where some of the Minnesota River waters began following a natural overflow channel. The waters also made a temporary island of the Bootlegger's Supper Club. Proprietor John Berends said the structure was high and dry, as it was in 1997, but the waters gushed over the township road and blocked access for customers. He was to have hosted a banquet last night for the boy's basketball team, he said.

Berends said he's hoping that the waters will recede so that the road and his business can re-open quickly.

Downstream homeowners were also hoping for a quick drop in water levels. Four homes south of Granite Falls on a township road were surrounded by flood waters, although the structures had been raised and flood proofed following the 1997 flood.

The homeowners had been warned of the rising waters, but two opted to stay put and watch over their homes until the waters subside, according to Chief Deputy Wayne DeBlieck of the Yellow Medicine County Sheriff's Department. He said there were a number of roads closed due to the rising waters, including a portion of Minnesota Highway 67.

Officers were reporting few problems in the area, he noted.

The same held true for the Upper Sioux Community, where homes in lower areas had also been flood proofed following the 1997 flood. Some of those who found themselves surrounded by waters were staying at Prairie's Edge Casino Resort or with other family member, while others preferred to keep a watch over things.

The waters of Firefly Creek were swollen but still flowing behind Tracy and Alex Blue's home, but the home and two neighboring houses were not experiencing problems. Tracy Blue said flood waters reached countertop level in the neighboring house of her husband's mother Sara Blue in 1997.

This year she wasn't expecting any problems, but added: "As long as it doesn't come up anymore.''

Water levels should slowly begin to drop in the days ahead, according to the National Weather Service projection for the area.

That was welcome news for Marv and Diane Patten, whose home and Granite Floral Greenhouses are located just west of Granite Falls. The couple woke up to 18 inches of water in their home in 1997, and they also had to contend with a flooded basement in their downtown store.

This year, Marv Patten said he lost some sleep keeping an eye on the waters, but was confident that the waters would stay well below the level that would cause trouble.

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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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