As storm adds to season’s hefty snow total, Stillwater keeps eye on flood potential

[anvplayer video=”5170721″ station=”998122″]

April kicked off with nearly a foot of snow in Stillwater, but the melt is back underway.

“I haven’t seen snow this bad in a while and not here,” says Conner Karras-Sack, who works at Leo’s Grill and Malt Shop downtown.  

Snow-clogged sidewalks and pooling water are just feet apart.

“It still looks like warm weather coming up,” notes Stillwater Mayor Ted Kozlowski. “I think people are happy it’s going away soon.”

But many eyes here are watching the partly ice-covered St. Croix River and the potential for flooding.

RELATED: Sandbagging, road closures to begin Monday in Stillwater as flood protection efforts increase

Kozlowski is already crunching numbers and the impact of what could happen.

He says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts there’s an 80% chance the river will reach 689 feet above sea level — 13 feet higher than normal.

“Add 13 feet to what we’re seeing, now 13 to 14 feet,” Kozlowski says. “It’s a ton of water.”

Volunteers have already stacked hundreds of sandbags on the riverfront. Several parking lots in the potential flood zone have been blocked off.   

“I’m from Fargo, which is on the Red River Valley,” says Liz Taylor, who’s lived in Stillwater since 2014. “So we’re always looking for flood totals with this river here.”

Taylor is concerned about high waters impacting downtown businesses, potentially forcing the Stillwater Lift Bridge to close.  

“It’s too bad because it’s so cool,” Taylor says. “They made it a pedestrian bridge — it’s a big tourist draw.”

Kozlowski says he’s not especially worried about the safety of the bridge, which has been around since 1931.

He explains the two worst years he can recall for flooding downtown were 1993 and 2001.

That earlier year, Kozlowski says he was working at a downtown restaurant.

“I worked at a place called Trump’s on Main Street,” he recalls. “And the basement was completely underwater. Like, you’d walk three steps to get into the basement and you’re hitting water already.”

Karras-Sack says he hopes the flooding doesn’t get that bad.

“I mean, I’m not surprised,” he says. “I feel like more snow than usual and usually, it doesn’t go this late in the year.”

For now, it’s a waiting game as the weather warms up and the waters potentially rise.

Kozlowski says he’s expecting some kind of change — including possible flooding — in a little more than a week.

Lowell Park, on the waterfront, is one area of concern.

“A lot of our park is elevated, although you can’t really tell,” Kozlowski says. “So we’re raised the park up to a certain level, and so now we just have to sandbag to fill the gaps. It’s really kind of hoping for the best, honestly. Not anything we can do about it except prepare — and we are well prepared.”