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Flood crest is seventh highest on record

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The Hastings riverfront was a popular spot last week, despite several signs warning people to stay back.

Extensive rainfall throughout the state poured into the Mississippi River, swelling its banks to unusual heights in Hastings. The flood crested Friday at 19.1 feet, making it the seventh-worst flood in recorded history, according to National Weather Service records.

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“We’ve seen levels like this before, but it’s been awhile,” said Hastings Mayor Paul Hicks.

The river reached 18.9 feet in June of 1993 and the next highest was in April of 1952, when the river reached 20.9 feet. Most recently, Hastings saw the river rise to 22 feet in April of 2001. That year, water from the river covered the banks in Jaycee Park and ran into Lake Rebecca, causing concern that the fishing stock in the lake could be affected. The 2001 flood also caused considerable damage to the Hastings hydroelectric plant, located in the lock and dam complex.

Since then, the city has reconfigured the hydroelectric plant to be more flood resistant. The facility has been closed this year for high water, but there have been no issues there, Hicks said.

The worst flood in Hastings was in April of 1965, when it crested at 25.9 feet. That flood is memorialized with a high water mark in Levee Park.

Although this year’s flood was still a far cry from that history-making event, it was still enough to disrupt some activities in Hastings. The city closed off First Street under the railroad, East Fourth Street, a portion of East 10th Street and part of Lock and Dam Road due to high water. Portions of the pedestrian and bicycle trail along the Mississippi River were closed, as well as the trail underpass along the Vermillion River under Vermillion Street. By Thursday, all of Lake Rebecca Park was under water, with the exception of the northernmost part of the parking lots there, and water was beginning to swell through the storm drains into Lock and Dam Road along Jaycee Park, and portions of those parks were closed to recreational use.

Closures will continue until water has receded. In areas where the water is deepest, that’s not expected until late this week.

The city has been taking a proactive approach to this year’s flood, Hicks said. Staff has been monitoring water levels every day and letting the public know about road and trail closures. The city has also been talking with CP Rail in attempts to ensure the Second Street crossing into East Hastings isn’t blocked by stopped trains. With the First Street underpass closed, East Hastings residents can only get into or out of their neighborhood by crossing the railroad tracks on East Second Street. Hicks said that anyone who sees a train stopped on the crossing while the underpass is closed should call 911.

Although no residents used them, sandbags were available to help protect riverfront homes threatened by high water. The city was prepared to provide sandbags with the help of volunteers through the Bless Hastings group, Hicks said.

Once floodwaters recede, city staff will be making their way through those public areas affected by high water to assess the damage and identify the next step, Hicks said. Assessments are being done at the state level around Minnesota as well, he said.

Water measurements on the Mississippi River in Hastings are taken at the tailwater of Lock and Dam No. 2. River forecasts take into account past precipitation as well as precipitation expected about 24 hours into the future from the time the forecast is issued.

Motorists are reminded not to drive into flooded street areas. Even though the water may not look deep, floodwater can easily knock over a person or carry away a vehicle. According to the National Weather Service website, “A mere six inches of fast-moving flood water can knock over an adult. It takes only two feet of rushing water to carry away most vehicles. This includes pickups and SUVs.”

Flooded areas also disguise the true depth of the water as well as the condition of the road or ground underneath, making flooded areas even more dangerous.

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Katrina Styx
Katrina Styx has been a reporter for the Hastings Star Gazette since 2010. She has a bachelor's degree in English with a minor in journalism from the University of Wisconsin - River Falls. Prior to coming to Hastings, Katrina reported for weekly newspapers in Jordan, Minn., and River Falls, Wis.
(651) 319-4501
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