Warmer winter weather has residents wary of ice jams, flooding

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Warmer winter weather in the metro area is prompting a big concern for those living along the Mississippi River: the prospect of more ice jams.

Just last month, in Anoka County and parts of Hennepin County, a big buildup of ice caused flooding in parks and residential areas.

“This has been the worst one. I’ve never seen it so high,” says Mark Workman, who visited Champlin’s Mississippi Point Park to watch for American bald eagles and check on the river.

He says the ice jam that formed in mid-January here turned the park into a flood zone.

“All this ice and stuff was just picked up. The water raised up. The parking lot froze over solid. This whole area was completely filled with water,” Workman recalls.

Officials watching water levels in Champlin, Anoka in midst of ice jams

What’s causing all this?

Turns out 2019 was the wettest year on record in Minnesota.

The National Weather Service says the state is heading into spring with wetter-than-normal soil.

There are also concerns about the potential for a quick thaw, which leads to ice jams.

“One of the caretakers was there and said, ‘Have to move your car — the parking lot is flooding,’” says Brent Freeman, who remembers his neighbors at the Riverview Estates Apartment Complex frantically moving their cars out of the flood zone. “There were ice jams on the river that were backing up the water, and it got worse than it did last spring.”

But Freeman considers himself lucky.

Those icy floodwaters reached just to the bottom of his car doors, and he was able to drive to higher ground.

The ice jam, and those high waters, turned his parking lot into a skating rink, with cars marooned in ice.

“You kind of thought, I’m not sure if I should park too close to the river overnight for a while,” he says.

The January event was nothing to fool with.

High above the river, Chopper 5 showed viewers how the ice buildup caused water levels to rise 8 feet in 24 hours.

“It was about a foot deep in the parking lot,” remembers Nick Wilds, who also lives at Riverview Estates. “It was a giant ice pool, and froze over the next day, so it was pretty bad.”

Workman and Wilds say they both will be keeping a wary eye on the Mississippi and the skies above.

“I think we’re going to end up getting more flooding, I really do,” Workman explains. “I think this is going come up again, too.”