With current projections putting the chances at around 50/50 of the Red Lake River in Crookston reaching a depth of 23.7 feet during the spring melt that's about to ramp up in a significant way, Crookston Fire Chief/Emergency Manager Tim Froeber told members of the Crookston City Council Monday evening he's hoping to get through the flood fight without having to sandbag the few remaining vulnerable areas in the community.
That strategy could change, Froeber told the council's Ways & Means Committee, when National Weather Service hydrologists on Thursday update their spring flood forecasts for the Red River and its tributaries up and down the Red River Valley.
Froeber said the city's main emergency operations center, located at the Crookston Police Department, will likely be opening sometime in the coming days. The same goes for command posts in the wards. Meanwhile, electric boxes and panels have been removed from Central Park, which would be inundated by the river when it reaches the 21-foot range. Pumps and other equipment are being tested to make sure everything is fully operational, Froeber said.
Although Public Works Director Pat Kelly is getting sand and bags ready, Froeber said he's "pretty confident" in the city's protection level, given the current forecast for the Red Lake River's rise. If the river's crest forecast is increased, it's likely that sandbags would have to be laid on a stretch of South Ash Street across from the American Legion, on a portion of Riverside and near the Crookston Public Library.
As for the break-up of the ice on the Red Lake River's winding channel through Crookston, which is often as big of a concern locally as the depth of the water itself, Froeber said the extremely low river level at freeze-up last fall could work in the community's favor. The river was only around four feet deep when it froze over in the fall, he explained, lower than the typical seven-foot range. What that means is that the ice, although thick for this late date, isn't as wide as it would normally be because the river flow was narrower at a four-foot depth than a seven-foot depth.
"So there's narrower ice in the channel," Froeber said. "There's a narrower sheet in the center of the channel, so hopefully it'll flow out quickly."