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Gerald Asche, a Clara City municipal employee, operates a forklift Tuesday while unloading sandbags in a residential neighborhood on the city's northwest side. Volunteers began sandbagging areas of the city as Hawk Creek started to rise. Tribune photo by Jannet Walsh
Gerald Asche, a Clara City municipal employee, operates a forklift Tuesday while unloading sandbags in a residential neighborhood on the city's northwest side. Volunteers began sandbagging areas of the city as Hawk Creek started to rise. Tribune photo by Jannet Walsh

Sandbagging operations begin in Clara City; Minnesota River to crest next week

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news Willmar, 56201

Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

Flood fighting efforts got under way as waters swelled over the banks of tributaries to the Minnesota River on Tuesday afternoon.

Volunteers began sandbagging an area on the north side of Clara City, according to City Administrator Windy Block. A crew of 15 to 20 volunteers answered the call. They were able to protect the north residential area as well as the wastewater treatment plant south of the town. Hawk Creek was continuing its rise, and the city had plans for monitoring the waters and sounding the sirens to summon volunteers if necessary, he said.

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Downstream in Maynard, the city was struggling to keep ahead of rising waters threatening to back up the sewer system. The city's lift station was having a difficult time keeping up with the flows, and additional pumps were being used, said Steve Miller, public works director.

Officials in other communities were also gearing up for a flood fight after reports of as much as 1 inch of rain fell during the night, but the arrival of sub-freezing weather was also being welcomed: It should slow the melt.

Flood projections issued Tuesday afternoon by the National Weather Service called for the Minnesota River to crest in the Montevideo and Granite Falls areas on Monday and Tuesday of next week at levels similar to those of 2010.

The waters of the Lac qui Parle River were rising rapidly Tuesday in Dawson, but were expected to crest today at levels below those experienced last year. The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway had moved a crane to town to prevent ice jamming on the railroad bridge over the Lac qui Parle River in the city, according to Mayor Merlin Ellefson.

The mayor said Tuesday afternoon that the river ice was rising with the water, but that no homes were immediately threatened. There are five low-lying homes that would be vulnerable, and the city was prepared to sandbag to protect them if necessary.

The city was also watching as waters from a drainage ditch rose and began pouring into an overflow area, which is the city ballpark and park area.

The Chippewa River in Benson was rising on Tuesday as well, but the waters were within the banks and there was no immediate threat to homes in the Golf Road area. Residents there were adding to their sandbag dikes as a precaution.

"We're working it pretty hard,'' said resident Greg Zniewski.

Some 12,000 sandbags had been filled and made into a dike to protect the area.

City Manager Rob Wolfington said that much of the river's ice was gone by Tuesday morning, which alleviated fears of jamming at the railroad bridge.

In Montevideo, the city has completed work to temporarily raise the 1969 dike -- the portion of the city's levee system located behind Trailways, near the wastewater treatment plant -- but is delaying a decision on whether to place a temporary levee atop U.S. Highway 212, said City Manager Steve Jones. The latest forecast was projecting a crest in the range of 17 feet, or below the 20-foot threshold at which the levee would be needed.

A portion of U.S. Highway 212 serves as a permanent levee in Montevideo.

Jones said the city can build the temporary dike and close the highway in a day's time, and would do so if flood forecasts warrant it.

In Granite Falls, the city installed pumps and began diverting water from the sanitary sewer system as infiltration began causing some basement flooding on Tuesday morning. City Manager Bill Lavin said city crew members will be monitoring the pumps around the clock.

The city will be doing some sandbagging at the water plant and a lift station. It had not yet been determined whether to build a barrier with Hesco bags along homes on Prentice Street.

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