Hastings Flood Forecast

Bracing for likely flooding as a byproduct of a historically snowy winter, the City of Hastings has devised their strategy to stave off the possible floodwaters. 

In a memorandum included in the City Council’s consent agenda for their April 3 meeting, Public Works Director Ryan Stempski provided an update on the flood forecast. He also laid out the measures City staff is ready to deploy, such as the provision of sand, sandbags and logistical support.

While City forces will not be used to personally fill the sandbags or to build barriers on private property, they will be providing the means necessary to do so and deliver them to curbside pickup locations. 

Stempski said that the City will lean on the Branchline Church, located east of the railroad tracks off 2nd Street, to serve as an emergency response hub for the community. The church has offered to stage equipment and materials for sandbagging efforts, and its members and other volunteer groups would be invited to sandbag homes where that was requested. 

According to their current projections, the National Weather Service anticipates that in a couple weeks Hastings will have a 50-75 percent chance of experiencing a moderate flood stage. The National Weather Service quantifies a moderate flood stage as an overflow that stretches 17 feet past a body of water’s natural banks. 

If this forecast comes to fruition, the north side of 1st Street in east Hastings may become inundated, and several segments of City roadways, and spaces within Jaycee, Lake Rebecca, River Flats, and Levee Parks, would need to be closed. Stempski identified 10 homes along 1st Street that could be in the flood’s wake, but he distinguished that it would take a flood stage of 22 feet in order for the properties to be directly impacted. 

Due to the shifting variables involved, primarily the pace of the snowmelt and the amount of additional precipitation, this flood forecast is subject to change. Stempski assured the council and the community that the City staff will continue to closely monitor the forecast in the coming weeks. 

Stempski said flood update and planning meetings will be scheduled, with the frequency of those meetings dictated by flood forecasts and planning flood fighting needs.

Some residents from this vulnerable area voiced their concerns about the pending flood during the public comment period of the council meeting. They highlighted a specific block between Franklin and Washington and 1st and 2nd Street that they said the City overlooks when flooding concerns rise.

In this block, there is a lot that is presently uninhabited, and the residents said that it is continually neglected by the City as a flood-risk priority. Within this area is a house and three garages that the residents said are lower than the houses along 1st Street by the river. 

They said that when the City put in the streets, sewers and gutters in that part of town, they raised the streets all around this block, leaving it low and susceptible to floodwaters. There is also an alley between Franklin and Washington that helps channel water into this problematic spot.

When flooding occurs, there are two culverts connected to this block that are designed to help relocate the excess water. However, while one of these culverts directs the water out of the area and into the river, the other one actually brings water into the block across Washington Street.

Because of this drainage infrastructure, the residents said that it doesn’t require much rain to make flooding happen there. They said that historically the City responds to flooding in these areas by plugging the culvert that exits into the river with a balloon, which helps to keep the river from backing up into the lot.

However, herein lies the problem, as rainwater can no longer exit the lot once this culvert is blocked off. The residents said that the City has utilized pumps to remove the buildup of water in this block in the past, but that they tended to do it as a last resort.

For this year, the residents implored the City to be ready to pump at the onset of any flooding. They also suggested that the City look into implementing a gutter system to help with drainage in the area.

Finally, the residents expressed their desire that the unoccupied lot remain that way and be retrofitted into a ponding basin. As it stands now, the lot is slated to have a new house built on it, and they argued that such development would only exacerbate the existing drainage issues. 

Another group of residents spoke on their concerns about a series of blocks around 4th Street East. They said that when the area becomes inundated, the primary access point they rely on to travel to and from their homes becomes unusable. 

Faced with this dilemma in years past, one of the residents secured an easement through nearby property owned by the Department of Natural Resources. But this impromptu route presents its own set of issues, since vehicles have to navigate through thick buckthorn to traverse the one-way-in, one-way-out pathway. 

The residents in this affected area pleaded that the City investigate this issue, which is inherently one of safety since the floodwaters severely inhibit emergency services from reaching their homes. 

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