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Minnesota River communities hopeful: Water levels projected to drop slowly this week

The Minnesota River topped a roadway behind downtown businesses in Granite Falls, Minn., on Wednesday, March 27. The KK Berge building, shown here, is flood-proofed for water in its lower level. Tom Cherveny / Forum News Service1 / 3
Montevideo, Minn., volunteer firefighters and city workers continued to add sandbags to the city's 1969 levee on Friday morning. They are shown working as the river level reached 21.21 feet, on its way to a crest of 21.3 feet Friday evening, March 29. Tom Cherveny / Forum News Service2 / 3
Waters following a glacial overflow channel outside of Granite Falls Friday, March 29, have temporarily made an island of the Rock supper club on the outskirts of Granite Falls, Minn. Susan Lunneborg / Forum News Service3 / 3

MONTEVIDEO, Minn. – Officials in Montevideo and Granite Falls are hopeful that the worst is behind them as the Minnesota River has crested and is ever-so-slowly receding.

“I think the immediate danger is behind us,” said Jim Curtiss, mayor of Montevideo on Sunday, March 31.

The river had crested Friday evening at 21.3 feet in Montevideo, the fourth highest crest ever recorded. The city’s highest crest was 23.90 feet in 1997.

By Sunday, the river had gone down by three tenths of an inch. Not a significant drop, but it’s going the right way, he noted.

This year’s crest is 14 feet feet above flood stage. It’s very close to the 21.68 foot crest recorded in 1969.

The mayor said the city will need to remain on guard and continue to monitor against seepage and breeches in the dike. The river is projected to remain at major flood stage well into next week, and that’s based on forecasts for no significant precipitation in the upcoming days.

The river is projected to drop by roughly a foot to 19 feet by next Sunday – still is well above the 17.5 foot level, which is the threshold for major flood stage.

The city was successful in the past week in shoring up its 1969 levee. Duininck’s Inc. added two feet of clay to the levee, and the city’s volunteer firefighters and city workers spent Thursday and Friday capping it with a layer of poly sheets and sandbags.

Sewer service remains turned off to residences and businesses in the Smith Addition and other low-lying areas, and that will remain the case through the week

The Minnesota River had crested early Saturday morning in Granite Falls at 893.42 feet, but there was a bump up and a new crest later that night, according to Mayor Dave Smiglewski. The second crest reached 893.52 feet, which is just under the 2011 crest of 893.55 feet but well below the record of 899. 84 feet in 1997. The 2019 crest ranks as the seventh highest crest.

The Minnesota River is projected to drop from 893.1 feet to 891 feet by Saturday in Granite Falls, which keeps it at the moderate flood level. The mayor said he is hopeful the trend will continue downward: Upstream gauges on the Minnesota River and tributaries all indicate crests have been reached.

“We’ll be sitting tight and keeping a close eye,’’ said the mayor. He said all of the flood protection will need to stay in place through April as the likely arrival of spring showers and storms could raise the river again.

Roads along the Minnesota River from the Milan bridge on state Highway 40 west of Milan to crossings throughout Renville County all remain impacted by the high waters. U.S. Highway 212 between Granite Falls and Montevideo remains closed with waters crossing the roadway at the bridge south of Montevideo and the intersection near Wegdahl.

State Highway 67 is closed southeast of Granite Falls.

Chippewa, Lac qui Parle, Yellow Medicine and Renville counties all report road closings at locations along the Minnesota River.