Governor declares state of emergency as more rain falls in Minnesota
Gov. Mark Dayton on Thursday declared a “state of emergency” in 35 of Minnesota’s 87 counties, including St. Louis and Koochiching, after waves of heavy rain and flooding that have pummeled the state for most of June.
Minnesotans from the southwest to the northeast are reeling from rainfall totals that have topped the charts in many locations, with flooding in the past week in Pipestone County, Mankato and the Twin Cities, as well as along the Minnesota-Ontario border.
More rain fell Thursday, including downpours that caused flash flooding in the Twin Cities, and more rain is possible today and Saturday.
The governor’s action makes a broad range of state resources available and kicks in state agency help for counties and cities that have been mostly going it alone.
“We’re ramping up our efforts to help communities across the state that are dealing with storm damage and high water due to the recent heavy rains,” said Kris Eide, the state’s director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, in a statement. “The state’s emergency operations center is in contact with emergency managers in the affected areas and we are coordinating the state’s response as directed by the governor’s state of emergency.”
On Wednesday, Dayton ordered 100 National Guard members to International Falls to help with sandbagging and other efforts to hold back the record-high Rainy River and still-rising lakes. The soldiers from the Cloquet-based Troop C, 1st Squadron, 94th Cavalry will mobilize to International Falls today to support Koochiching County with flood response activities. Commanders of the unit already were on the scene Thursday afternoon.
Koochiching County officials say some 200,000 sandbags have already been laid and another 200,000 empty bags arrived Thursday to be filled and stacked against rising Rainy Lake.
“The lake is still coming up. But the good news is that the Rainy River and the other rivers are down a little,” said Rob Ecklund, a Koochiching County commissioner. Ecklund said a state incident command team arrived Thursday to help lead flood activities.
Having lots of rain in June isn’t unusual. Duluth, for example, on average sees rain on 13 days every June. But Greg Spoden, Minnesota state climatologist, said the widespread nature of the extremely heavy storms is unusual, even in the state’s wettest month of the year.
“It is unusual for the heavy rains to be this widely geographically distributed,” Spoden told the News Tribune, adding that heavy summer downpours are more often focused on one or two regions of the state.
An example of the wide reach of the wet June weather “is the fact that both Luverne, 13 inches, and Kabetogama, 9.62 inches, have already set June monthly rainfall records. This despite the fact that the month of June is far from over,” Spoden said.
If the month had ended Thursday, 2014 would be the seventh-wettest June on record in Minnesota, Spoden said. But there are still 10 days to go.
Thursday marked the first time since 2011 that no part of Minnesota has been in any stage of drought.
Meanwhile Thursday, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced that Franz Jevne State Park along the Rainy River has been closed until further notice because of flooding. The park is located along Minnesota Highway 11 near Birchdale, about 35 miles west of International Falls.
DNR officials also declared several state forests off limits to off-road vehicles until drier conditions prevail. The Itasca County Sheriff’s Office announced that a no-wake rule for watercraft is in effect on Pokegema Lake and the Mississippi River due to extremely high water levels, and St. Louis County has imposed a no-wake regulation on its share of Lake Kabetogama. Large wakes can cause serious shoreline erosion, especially at times of high water.
The National Weather Service in Chanhassen reported more than 6 inches of rain fell in some parts of the Twin Cities Thursday morning. Lake Minnetonka west of Minneapolis reached an all-time high Thursday of 930.77 feet above sea level, breaking the record set only 16 days earlier.
Other counties included in the state of emergency include Beltrami, Blue Earth, Brown, Dodge, Faribault, Freeborn, Goodhue, Grant, Hubbard, Jackson, Lake of the Woods, Le Sueur, Lyon, McLeod, Morrison, Mower, Murray, Nicollet, Nobles, Olmsted, Otter Tail, Pipestone, Ramsey, Redwood, Renville, Rice, Rock, Roseau, Scott, Sibley, Steele, Todd and Waseca.
Some of the heaviest June rainfall totals in Minnesota reported through early Thursday:
Redwood Falls 13.69”
Source: Minnesota Climatology office