Flooding, ice jams impacting residents along Cottonwood River in New Ulm

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The Cottonwood River in New Ulm continues to respond quickly to snowmelt and runoff due to recent warm temperatures, and city residents are preparing for what could happen.

Brown County has advised people to avoid walking or driving through floodwaters.

New Ulm Police Chief Dave Borchert said early Wednesday that conditions were ideal, but in a matter of just a few hours later that night it all changed.

"It’s concerning because the water is not moving," said Borchert.

For folks right along the Cottonwood River, they’re forced to take a long detour when it floods.

"This adds about five or six miles to the trip to town," said George Glotzbach, who lives along the Cottonwood River. "It’s an inconvenience."

"It’s just one of those things you have to put up with," said Donna Hoffmann, who also lives near the river.

With the Minnesota River frozen, chunks of ice are piled up, creating an ice jam and forcing the water underneath to flow through the park and across the road.

"It’s always unpredictable," Chief Borchert said. "This literally stops everything and it’s going to make the river level raise."

Borchert said flooding here is supposed to happen when water levels are high in order to save the bridge. But even he admits it’s surprising to see it so high already.

"We fear what could happen," Borchert said. "This year is a little more concerning because the river levels were historically high going into fall and of course into spring."

Borchert spent Wednesday night knocking on doors of nearby homes and warning residents of the possibility of a recommended evacuation.

"Consider having three to five days of clothing ready to go in a suitcase, ready to go in a moment’s notice," Borchert said.

"It was a little scary last night because it came all of a sudden," Hoffmann said.

With temperatures expected to climb by the weekend, officials in New Ulm are confident it’ll clear the ice jam. Despite how often the river floods, it’s something the city plans to keep a close eye on to make sure everyone stays safe and dry.