Warmer weather met with lingering flooding concerns in Stillwater

As the sun shone down on Stillwater, Minnesota on Saturday, flooding concerns lingered over the city that sits along the St. Croix River, which is projected at an 80% chance to hit major flood stage in the next week or two.

Papa’s Rooftop Bar, sitting atop the Water Street Inn, opened this year for the first time over the weekend.

“We’d like to think it’s the best view in the valley,” said owner Chuck Dougherty, who knows that ‘best view’ also comes with a front-row seat to watch the rising waterfront as the unusually high piles of snow continue to melt.

“I think the water is going to start coming up pretty fast,” he said. “You hit a couple of 60-70 degree days.”

The river is expected to rise about 12 feet when the melting is said and done, Stillwater Mayor Ted Kozlowski said.

“If the forecast holds true at 80%, it’s gonna be up to, if not over, the road deck on that bridge,” he added, pointing to the Stillwater Lift Bridge. “We really haven’t seen a forecast like this since 2001.”

The mayor, who grew up in town, and Dougherty recalled a time when the Lowell Park gazebo, sitting in front of the Water Street Inn along the riverfront, was up to its roof underwater.

Although it was a scare, Dougherty said he can’t remember rising water from snow melt ever making its way into the inn, “because they, you know, they build the levee every time that’s going to happen.”

Between Stillwater and the river this year is a massive mound of dirt and sandbags built by volunteers at the end of March. For now, they’re playing the waiting game.

“I mean, it’s going to be hitting this levee that we’ve built, this temporary dike,” Mayor Kozlowski said gesturing toward the river and then to the sandbag barrier. “It’s going to be hitting that pretty significantly.”

“The temporary blockade should keep the water at bay, but the city is prepared to add to it if that becomes necessary over the next couple of weeks,” Kozlowki said, adding a request that volunteers keep their eyes out for more sign-up slots online.