By Ryan Gueningsman
Friday morning, Delano city officials will continue implementing a second phase of flood preparations after the National Weather Service raised the expected level of the Crow River to 20.5 feet Thursday afternoon.
At an emergency city council meeting Thursday afternoon, the council learned city officials will be going ahead with constructing a temporary floodwall on River Street.
The council had given approval of the measure earlier in the week, pending river conditions, and city officials deemed it necessary to move forward with the next stage of flood control. As of 7 p.m. Thursday, the river was at 18.81 feet.
At 10:30 a.m. Friday morning, “jersey barriers” will be brought to River Street and placed on the west sidewalk. Several barriers were placed on the sidewalk near the intersection of Bridge Avenue and River Stre et. More will be placed Friday morning south to the area across from Dave’s Town Club.
To the north, a barrier will also be constructed from Bridge Avenue and River Street toward Three Crows Cafe and Coffee Shop, and then an attempt will be made to divert rising waters around the Three Crows building. From there, it will run north to the corner of the Granite Works building.
Gina Coburn of Three Crows said Wednesday she had a group do some sandbagging on the west side of her building. She said one of her goals, aside from keeping water out of her establishment, is to try to keep any erosion from happening.
Coburn said the attention to the downtown area the Crow River is bringing has been good for business.
“As long as it doesn’t actually flood,” she said. Coburn observed her five-year anniversary of ownership this month, and said this is the first time she’s really been concerned about river waters that are literally outside her back door.
“This is the highest I’ve seen it since I’ve bought it,” she said. “Every spring we watch it, and so far it’s been fine.”
With the predictions as they were, Coburn said her and her husband purchased flood insurance, but said it does not kick in until the end of March, which is when the river was originally expected to crest.
“This is my first flood,” Coburn said. “I’ve learned a lot. It is a little freaky to look out and it’s (the river) is right there it’s moving so fast.”
Up the street and across the road, Deb Muckinhirn and Tristin Baker, owners of Schnell’s Saddle Shop, a game plan was being formed Thursday afternoon in the event an evacuation is necessary.
“It changed so quickly,” Muckinhirn said of the updated projection that the river could hit 20.5 feet over the weekend. “The city has been very good at keeping us informed. Our main thing is making sure we have enough help (if an evacuation of their property becomes necessary).”
Muckinhirn and Baker both said it’s important to try to stay “light-hearted” throughout the potential flooding event. Muckinhirn said one of her biggest concerns is her neighbors across the street at Three Crows.
“We’ll pull together for them, too,” she said.
Finding the good in a bad situation, Muckinhirn said, “it has really brought the community together.”
More community spirit is expected to be shown Friday afternoon when senior high students will be dismissed from their classrooms to go to downtown Delano and prepare more sandbags.
“The good thing is, we’ve had a week to prepare for this and we know what to do,” Kern said at Thursday afternoon’s meeting.
The barriers that will be placed on River Street will give the city protection up to levels of 21.5 feet one foot higher than projected.
Kern said he spoke with a National Weather Service representative who told him they’ve “been having a really hard time trying to predict this one.”
He said the freeze factor, along with the tile in ditches, and farm fields draining now are leading to more dramatic increases.
“We’re getting foot jumps instead of inches,” he said, adding that a lot of runoff is coming from Renville, Meeker, and McLeod counties.
“It’s all gotta head back through this way,” Kern said.
Kern said the Weather Service admitted the projections could yet change a half-foot in either direction before the expected crest Saturday night.
Another factor in the projections, Kern said, is the Weather Service is not taking into account the effect of the water hitting the bridge. Though water is hitting the bottom of the Bridge Avenue bridge, the city has kept the bridge open as of Thursday night.
“We haven’t discussed when we close the bridge in great detail,” City Engineer Vince Vander Top said at the meeting, adding that structurally, the bridge is in fine condition, but said it may be in the best interest of public safety to shut down the bridge due to the high number of pedestrians and traffic in the area.
River Street may be closed or detoured while crews work Friday at setting up the jersey barriers, but the city hopes the street will be able to remain open so people can access the businesses there.
“No parking” signs have been placed on the west side of the road from Bridge Avenue to the area across from Dave’s Town Club.
Another area the city is closely monitoring is the Granite Works property, with city officials talking with the building’s owner Thursday afternoon. Kern said they may move some equipment from the area, and also block off the entrance off Oak Street.
The barrier that was constructed by Xcel Energy late last week may also be reinforced Friday.
“That’s our lowest point,” Vander Top commented.
Yet another concern city officials cited was the condition of the dike in the area of Leland and Sons Auto Service.
Kern said there may be the potential more rock may need to be dumped onto the dike to reinforce it.
The final issue the council discussed was the “gawker” factor.
“I’m just worried there’s going to be a lot of people downtown tonight,” Council Member Larry Bartels said at the meeting.
To assist in traffic/pedestrian control, the city has been in touch with Wright County Emergency Management Coordinator Steve Berg, who was on site Thursday afternoon. A sheriff’s deputy was also parked at the intersection helping with crowd control.
It was noted reserve officers may be brought in Friday to assist with crowd control. No matter what measures are taken, city officials said people need to take cautions if visiting the river area.
“You can’t fence off stupidity,” McDonald quipped.
The council also urged residents to not drain sump pumps into the sewer system.
Only once in the last 50 years has Delano endured river levels at 20.5 feet and that was during the significant flood of 1965 when water levels reached over 23 feet, according to the city.
In 1969, currently the second-highest flood in the past 50 years, river levels reached 20.45 feet.
In 2001, river levels topped at 19.95 feet.
The city believes the temporary levee on River Street will provide necessary protection if the 20.5 river level or greater is reached.