Minnesota River reaching its crest in Montevideo
MONTEVIDEO — Montevideo and Granite Falls are staying ahead of the fast-rising Minnesota River as it reaches its crest.
Waters on the Minnesota River were expected to crest at 21.3 feet at the end of the day Friday in Montevideo, below the 23.9 foot record crest of 1969.
"We're in good shape,'' said Mayor Jim Curtiss on Friday afternoon with river levels just under the crest.
The city's volunteer firefighters and public works employees stacked sandbags on the city's 1969 levee on both Thursday and Friday, and stayed well ahead of the waters. The levee had been raised two-feet with clay on Thursday.
City Engineer Mike Amborn said the city's 1969 levee is being built up to protect against waters higher than the expected crest as a safety precaution. The engineer said a forecast for dry weather in the days ahead is working in the city's favor, but they will have to remain on guard. He said the river is going to remain near its crest level for days to come.
The city shut off sewer service to the Smith Addition when the river reached 18 feet on Thursday. But unlike the flood of 1997, the residents have not been required to evacuate — and most businesses are continuing to operate.
Ron and Norma Sather, who have lived in their home here since 1971, said they remain dry, as are their neighbors. "We've been pretty lucky,'' said Norma Sather. Their home experienced seepage in the basement in 1997 when electric service was cut and they could not operate a sump pump.
The city has removed130 homes in the Smith Addition and other low areas in the community since 1997. There remain 17 residences and eight businesses.
Roads in the area remain impacted by the high waters. U.S. Highway 212 is closed between Montevideo and Granite Falls. Water is over the road at the bridge south of Montevideo, as well as at the intersection near Wegdahl.
Granite Falls flooding
Granite Falls is expecting the river to crest on Saturday at 893.21 feet, or below the historic crest of 899.84 in 1997.
"I think we're in good shape,'' said Mayor Dave Smiglewski. "Hope isn't a good strategy, but I hope that we'll stay under the 2011 (flood) level," he added. The river reached 893.55 in 2011.
He said mitigation projects that removed homes and structures in the commercial district and Minnesota Avenue and 15th Street has greatly reduced the risk of flood damage in the community. The city's pedestrian bridge has also been raised by just over six feet, sparing it from the ice and debris filled waters that threatened it in earlier floods.
Smiglewski noted that the community would be in "full panic mode" were it not for those mitigation efforts.
Instead, he said the high waters are bringing a steady stream of people to watch the river in the downtown area, making the flood of 2019 much different than that of 1997, where there was a race to beat the flood waters.
While this year's crest is not expected to be as high as 1997, the rapid rate at which the river has been rising is surprising, said the mayor. In the 48 hours leading to Friday, the river rose 6.97 feet, the fastest rise he's ever witnessed in that span of time.
Some sandbagging has been done in the area. Yellow Medicine County placed a sandbag wall to protect the county museum downstream of the Highway 212 bridge. Granite Falls volunteer firefighters added to the wall late Friday in anticipation of rising waters during the night.
The city's firefighters had also placed sandbags to protect a home on the city's west edge on Thursday. It's located along an overflow channel that is now racing at full speed. The overflow channel reduces the amount of water that would otherwise flow through the downtown portion of the river.
That overflow channel has also turned a supper club on the outskirts of Granite Falls into a temporary island.