Afton braces for looming floodwatersWith the increasingly warm temperatures, many Minnesotans have begun thinking about barbeques, picnics, bike rides and springtime. The city of Afton, however, has only one springtime activity on its mind — flooding. Last week Afton’s Community Health Emergency Preparedness Committee (CHEP) met to discuss flood preparations.
By: Amber Kispert-Smith, Woodbury Bulletin
With the increasingly warm temperatures, many Minnesotans have begun thinking about barbeques, picnics, bike rides and springtime. The city of Afton, however, has only one springtime activity on its mind — flooding.
Last week Afton’s Community Health Emergency Preparedness Committee (CHEP) met to discuss flood preparations.
“You always prepare for the worst,” Afton Public Works Director Ken Johnson said. “We have to start planning and protecting what we know we can protect, but there's only so much we can do.”
Afton has budgeted $3,000 for flood control, which includes operation of pumps, and another $5,500 budgeted for flood mitigation.
“We’re a little bit earlier in our preparations because of the severity more so this year,” Johnson said.
A major flood season
Afton is anticipating a major flood based on National Weather Service projections, Johnson said.
The NWS is projecting that this year the St. Croix River has a 90 percent chance of reaching major flood stage at 89 feet and there is a 20 percent chance the St. Croix River will reach the level of the record-setting 1965 flood, which submerged the Stillwater Lift Bridge and closed County Road 21, with a height of 94 feet.
“What we’ve been hearing the past few weeks, it is likely that we will have moderate flooding or worse in Afton,” Mayor Pat Snyder said.
Afton House Inn owner Gordy Jarvis, who is a CHEP member, said it’s impossible to know where Afton might fall on the flood projections since it all depends on the amount of snow melt, and when the thaw happens.
“If it all came down at once with a lot of warm weather, we'll really be in a lot of trouble,” he said. “It all depends on the thaw and obviously it’s a guess for everybody.”
“There’s only man who knows that,” said Dana Warner, of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, referring to God.
The Salvation Army is already seeking out volunteers to assist with flooding. According to the Salvation Army website, volunteers are most needed to drive a mobile kitchen. Other needs include food service and administrative duties.
Facing the floodwaters
After much discussion among members, CHEP eventually decided the best way to combat the rising flood waters would be to place sandbags to the height of 692 feet at the south side of the city’s levee and up to 695 feet on the north side of the levee
Additionally, pumps will be placed on the north side to capture any seepage that comes through the levee.
Johnson said if the flooding becomes too severe, the city is going to focus most of its attention on the north side of the levee since there are only about three houses south of the levee, but north includes all of Afton’s downtown.
“It really comes down to picking the hazard,” Council member Bill Palmquist said.
“If we chose to protect the entire city, it's going to be a tremendous amount of effort,” Johnson said. “ I don't think whatever we do on the south side will save them if it gets too severe.”
However, there are no plans to divert or dam up Kelle’s Creek, like the city has in the past, since it is believed that would likely overwhelm the city’s ability to pump the backside of the levee, Johnson said.
“We want to do our best to keep everyone dry,” Council member Randy Nelson said.
Even though there are no plans to divert the creek, the city is hoping to place concrete barriers along the creek, Johnson said.
Johnson said the number of sandbags could be just a couple thousand all the way up to 30,000 dependent on how much the river floods.
“It is really dependent on what we get in an actual flood level,” he said.
Afton City Council will vote on the CHEP’s recommendations during its meeting today.
Residents who are interested in flood insurance should visit the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website at http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/waters/watermgmt_section/floodplain/flood_insurance.html or visit the National Flood Insurance Program website at http://www.floodsmart.gov.