Updated: May 27, 2022 03:31 PM
Created: May 26, 2022 07:43 PM
As lake and river levels in northeastern Minnesota continue to rise, many communities are sandbagging around the clock.
“It's unprecedented and people are taking losses, they've lost cabins, the resort community is in peril because there's several of them that are losing the battle with the flood and lodges flooded,” said Kabetogama Township Supervisor John Stegmeir.
With the Rainy River Basin still under a flood warning, there is hope for relief in some areas.
The Headwaters, which include Lake Vermilion, Basswood, and Crane Lake, are beginning to see a gradual decrease in water levels.
“Things are still super elevated when we talk about any decreases that are happening right now,” explained NWS Meteorologist Ketzel Levens. “They're coming from really, really high levels of heights, high discharge, high inflows.”
Even when the headwater levels decrease, that water has to go somewhere.
When we start to look at Crane Lake, Namakan Lake, Kabetogama, those are areas where the water just continues to rise,” said Levens.
The National Weather Service issues flood forecasts for a week at a time, but portions of the Rainy River Basin could see flooding into July, depending on how much rain we get in June.
“If we continue to see wet conditions that we continue to see an active pattern, these lake levels are not going to go down any time soon,” said Levens. “We continue to expect things to rise or at least stay really, really high. If you've got folks that are doing any kind of mitigation efforts right now, if you've got dock damage, if you're sandbagging for your property, it's likely that those kind of measures are going to need to go on for the foreseeable future.”
In Ranier, the Rainy Lake water has surrounded some homes and businesses, including Tara's Wharf Ice Cream Shop.
“We tried sandbagging, and each time the water level went up, I called for more sandbags,” said owner Tara Nelson. “We were hoping to create enough of a barricade so that the water would let me serve ice cream to my COVID serving window, but the water came up in spite of that. And it's underneath my building, so we are going to have to build something in order to get people to get their ice creams.”
In June, Namakan Lake and Lake Kabetogama are expected to exceed their all-time record levels, set in 1916. The Rainy Lake all-time record will be exceeded even sooner.
“The all-time record on Rainy Lake was set in 1950, which is a level that some folks might remember as really historic, damaging flooding,” said Levens. “And we are expecting that Rainy Lake with its expected rises of 11 to 13 inches will also reach that historic level that was set in 1950 probably sometime next week.”
The latest Rainy River Basin flooding forecast can be found here.
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