Updated: 06/20/2014 5:18 PM
Created: 06/20/2014 6:10 AM KSTP.com
By: Jennie Olson
Minnesota elected officials headed out Friday to gauge damage from widespread flooding caused by sustained, heavy rains. Gov. Mark Dayton joined Minnesota Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken and U.S. Rep. Tim Walz in assessing damage in southern Minnesota, where many areas have swollen lakes and rivers and flooded fields.
In some places, roads have been washed out or covered by sliding mud.
Dayton earlier surveyed problems in northern Minnesota, where some lakes are at record highs. Flooding problems also exist in and around the Twin Cities.
A state of emergency has been declared in 35 counties. An emergency operation center is fully operational, which typically precedes federal disaster requests. About 20 National Guard soldiers from Mankato were deployed to Henderson to support Sibley County with flood response activities.
Minnesota officials say the magnitude and widespread geographic nature of the flooding make a federal disaster request a near certainty.
Damage assessments have begun, but other surveying must wait until waters from downpours in the past week subside.
Minnesota created a $3 million contingency fund this year to match any federal aid for disasters but that could be exhausted quickly. Gov. Mark Dayton said Friday he isn't ruling out the need for a special session if more funds are required.
State of Emergency
Counties in the State of Emergency include; Beltrami, Blue Earth, Brown, Dodge, Faribault, Freeborn, Goodhue, Grant, Hubbard, Jackson, Lake of the Woods, Le Sueur, Lyon, Koochiching, McLeod, Morrison, Mower, Murray, Nicollet, Nobles, Olmsted, Otter Tail, Pipestone, Ramsey, Redwood, Renville, Rice, Rock, Roseau, Saint Louis, Scott, Sibley, Steele, Todd and Waseca.
Weather Makes Travel Difficult
Highways closed include:
Highways with restrictions or water over the roadway include:
As the flood aftermath continues, law enforcement is urging residents to stay out of the high water.
Safety experts are urging Minnesota boaters, paddlers and swimmers to think twice before heading out on the water right now.
A professional kayaker was caught on video going over the swollen Minnehaha Falls, which is a 53-foot drop. The group of bystanders screamed as the man went over. A photo shows the kayaker landed safely.
Professional or not, the move is something law enforcement is warning against. Lt. Eric Roeske with the Minnesota State Patrol said the message is simple: do not drive into standing water, and stay away from the swollen rivers.
It is not illegal to go over the falls, according to Minneapolis Park Police. However, they added if the man would have asked for a permit, they would not have granted it.
The Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Department said it's their experience that a trip over the Falls almost always results in serious injury or death.
"The incident today was an irresponsible publicity stunt. The impact of the drop, the large boulders at the base of the Falls, the deep water and fast current could easily injure or kill a kayaker," department officials wrote in a statement.
Folks in Mankato are also on edge after the heavy rains. The National Weather Service is reporting that some areas saw more than 5 inches of rain Wednesday to Thursday. Many homeowners around the city were seen ripping out basements and salvaging anything they could.
Gov. Mark Dayton was in southern Minnesota on Thursday to assess the flood damage there; he met with officials and emergency responders in Mankato and Owatonna. The governor was supposed to be in Marshall on Thursday for the groundbreaking of the Southwest Regional Sports Center, but the trip was canceled due to the weather.
In northern Minnesota, officials in Koochiching County say Rainy Lake near International Falls will rise at least another foot this week – possibly not cresting until mid-July. Homes and highways are already sitting under water, and hundreds of people are sandbagging to save what they can.
Dayton traveled to the International Falls area earlier this week to meet with officials who are trying to hold back the rising Rainy River and Rainy Lake. Volunteers and government crews have placed over 80,000 sandbags to try to protect homes, cabins, resorts and other buildings in the border region.
The Department of Natural Resources has temporarily closed Franz Jevne State Park near the Minnesota-Canadian border due to flooding on the Rainy River. It's a relatively small state park in Koochiching County, between International Falls and Baudette.
Also in northern Minnesota, engineers at the International Falls Dam are working to keep the flood water from interrupting operations at the Boise paper mill.
Rushing water blasting through spillways and wheels at the dam are threatening the mill's massive generators. If the generators are flooded, the mill could be shut down for weeks.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.