BY LINDA HERKENHOFF & SUSAN VAN CLEAF
"This is nothing," said a man in his 40’s as he strolled along the Crow River Sunday, June 24, in downtown Delano.
He said this as the river was approaching 17 feet in Delano – just below moderate flood stage. The mighty Crow rushed along about a foot below the Bridge Avenue bridge.
Apparently, most people in the Delano area agreed with the man. He and his friend were the only people anywhere near the bridge. No one was gawking at the river, and the two men barely gave the swollen Crow a glance as they strolled across the bridge.
And no sandbags were in sight. After some walking, it was possible to find some sandbags between the Three Crows and the river. The same was true of the Granite Building.
In contrast, the river attracted numerous sightseers in March 2011, when it crested at 20 feet and threatened to cover the Bridge Avenue bridge. Then sandbags lined the river along River Street. At one point the city of Delano closed the bridge to motorists and pedestrians alike.
On Monday, June 25, the National Weather Service (NWS) was predicting a 17.4 foot crest for Delano on Tuesday morning.
Down the river in Rockford, levels reached those comparable to late May. Described as minor flooding, water did not overflow the banks of the Crow River, but did submerge trees and a ramp at the canoe launch. Rockford Fire Chief, Ben Sanderson, said back in May that the heavy rains this spring and summer are not necessarily threatening, but the department is on alert and ready to act if flooding appears imminent.
The heavy downpours that created record flooding in Duluth also affected the Crow River. Delano and Rockford city officials closely watched NWS forecasts and decided they were ready.
"Thankfully, we’ve been through this before," Delano City Administrator Phil Kern said on the Wednesday before the crest. "We’ve gotten the drill down pretty well."
Delano had set up pumps to move water over the levees and into the river. The city had sandbagging supplies on hand, but Kern was not expecting to need them. He called the 18-foot water level originally predicted by the NWS "pretty manageable" and was hoping the river wouldn’t go any higher. He was encouraged by the NWS predictions of dry weather beginning on the Thursday after the deluge hit the state.
Meanwhile, as of Monday, June 25, the NWS still was issuing flood warnings for the South Fork of the Crow River. The Weather Service noted that the Crow River had crested at Mayer and still was rising in Delano. No rain was expected for the next seven days. The NWS said the river would fall below flood stage of 16.5 feet by Thursday morning at Delano.