Alleys turn to canals as ice-blocked drains plague Minneapolis

As snow mounds melt across Minnesota, standing water is becoming a big concern for residents.

Bill Bickner’s car goes for a swim before making it to his garage in south Minneapolis.

“I got stuck earlier in the week and had to get out my chisel,” Bickner said. “It’s a chronic problem and something needs to be done to address it for sure.”

The alley behind his house is full of standing water, which Bickner calls a pond or small lake. It’s home to dozens of garages on the block.

Lisa Leonard, who also parks her car in the alley, is used to dealing with just a flooded alley, but the ice ruts beneath the water take it up a notch.

“It’s terrible. It’s terrifying when I have to drive through it,” Leonard said. “If it was plowed better earlier, there would still be water, but there wouldn’t be so much damage to our cars.”

Minneapolis Public Works explained the standing water is the product of a snowy, wet winter.

“We get the snow and the cold weather happens. It creates ice and then it basically acts as a dam over the catch basin until we open it up,” said Sean Oberg, Minneapolis Public Works sewer maintenance supervisor.

Oberg said crews have been out on the roads daily responding to 311 calls by plowing alleyways and clearing storm drains.

“We have our known low areas throughout the city, which we try to stay on top of. However, when we get 6 inches [of snow] every other day, it’s kind of hard to stay on top of it,” Oberg said.

Oberg suggests residents can help by keeping their storm drains clear of snow and ice to get standing water moving.

Christian Conway said navigating pools of water is overwhelming, and it feels like a daily sport.

“I had to open my car door and then jump in because it was such a massive puddle around it that if I didn’t, my feet would be completely underwater,” Conway said.

He calls it yet another headache to add to the list of winter woes.

Public Works said the alleys can be a challenge because when the plows come through, it does not get all the snow out, which makes flooding worse.

Residents can call 311 to help the city prioritize what area they need to tackle next.