Walz, Klobuchar get update on spring flood preparations

Published 7:29 pm Friday, March 15, 2019

ST. PAUL — Top Minnesota leaders got a warning Friday to expect significant spring flooding across the state, depending on how quickly the snow melts.

Gov. Tim Walz, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and U.S. Reps. Betty McCollum and Jim Hagedorn sat down for a briefing from state and federal emergency managers who are gearing up for a flood threat caused by some of the heaviest snow in years. They heard that while problems at the moment are mostly localized, chances are high for major flooding on the state’s biggest rivers, including the Red, Minnesota, Mississippi and St. Croix.

“Whether we like it or not, we’re the Land of 10,000 Lakes and every once in a while the water turns against us,” said Joe Kelly, the state’s director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

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Dan Luna, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service office in Chanhassen, told them everything depends on how fast it warms up and how much it rains or snows. He warned that there’s a “tremendous amount of water” in the snowpack, and little has reached the rivers. Fortunately, he said, there’s no significant precipitation in the forecast and the warmup next week should be fairly gradual, with nighttime temperatures dropping below freezing.

So, he said, significant river flooding probably won’t develop over the next week. He said it’s more likely from late March through mid-April. And he said the weather to come will determine whether Minnesota experiences bad spring flooding as it did in 2011, or a “perfect melt” like in 2013, which erased serious threats on the Red, Minnesota and St. Croix rivers.

“We have long ways to go and we better hope for really benign weather,” he said.

Ceil Strauss, the state floodplain manager at the Department of Natural Resources, made a strong pitch for homeowners to buy flood insurance soon, since it takes 30 days for a policy to take effect. She warned against of expecting the feds to swoop in with lots of money after a flood, which she said isn’t likely to happen.

“It is heartbreaking to talk to people who thought they were covered and find out that they’re not,” Kelly said.

Klobuchar pointed out that Minnesota has been through flood disasters before and is better prepared because of them.

“Minnesotans are really good at this,” Walz said. “Yes it’s because we’ve had experience with it, but more importantly it’s because we plan. We hope that none of this happens, but hope is not a plan.”