BY GABE LICHT
DELANO, MN The South Fork of the Crow River has started receding, but not before cresting Wednesday evening at 17.59 feet, Delano’s highest watermark in October, and the 15th highest watermark overall, according to records dating back to 1965.
Though it was a far cry from the historic crest of 23.25 feet April 14, 1965, or the more recent crest of 21.02 feet June 24, 2014, the high water in October is far from normal.
“It is really rare in October,” City Administrator Phil Kern said. “It’s never this way.”
Kern has spoken to National Weather Service hydrologist Craig Schmidt, who, coincidently enough, resides in Delano.
“He thinks it’s going to be a slow decline,” Kern said. “They expect a little bit of rain Saturday but, hopefully, not enough to affect the river. Hopefully, we don’t get any major rain events, and it can go back to a more normal level for winter.”
Kern hopes the high water in the fall does not lead to flooding in the spring.
“I’m not a hydrologist but, certainly with experience with this in the past, we’re a little more aware and cautious about what could happen in the spring,” Kern said.
Worries are lessened thanks to 10 storm water infrastructure improvements since 2002.
“I can’t point to one single project and say that’s made the biggest difference,” Kern said.
Collectively, improvements have reduced the numbers of pumps and man hours needed to respond to high water.
“In the past, we probably would have had 10 pumps out and personnel working around the clock,” Kern said. “Thanks to the new levies, replacing bad storm water infrastructure, and a more comprehensive strategy . . . we can handle this a lot better than we have in the past.”
That doesn’t mean the city hasn’t received calls regarding drainage issues, though not necessarily related to the river itself. The city has been addressing concerns as funds have become available, and will continue to do so.
“We do have a running log of areas of concern and future projects,” Kern said. “We try to make sure we’re getting the best bang for the buck for the community by lumping projects together or doing them in conjunction with certain things happening in the area. We try to stretch the dollar as far as we can. It would be great if we could make all the improvements around town. We have to do them as we can.”
According to the National Weather Service, basement flooding may begin in homes close to the river with a crest of 14.85 feet; at 16.85 feet, storm sewers may need plugging to prevent river water from backing up into city streets; at 18.35 feet, the southwest part of Delano begins to experience flooding; and at 18.5 feet, flood walls may be installed on both sides of Bridge Avenue, which is not expected to be needed in this case.