U.S. Rep. Angie Craig held a flood briefing at Hastings City Hall on Monday, March 8, to start discussions around different agencies working together in the case of major flooding.
"We are here to see how we can help you," Craig said to city, county and state officials.
With a 75 percent chance of the Mississippi River entering a major flood stage of 21 feet by mid-April, Hastings Public Works Director Nick Egger said this year's flooding "could be one of the more significant ones we face." With the current forecast from the National Weather Service, Egger expects that sandbagging will start sometime in the next week or two.
A local organization made up of several local churches called the Bless Hastings Group will lead efforts in soliciting volunteers for sandbagging.
The city currently has 27,000 sandbags onhand, a similar amount to what was used in the major flooding event of 2001, Egger said. The city will distribute sandbags as needed at no charge to residents.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers St. Paul Division have filled about 1,500 sandbags out of 20,000 in preparation for potential flooding on the river at Lock and Dam No. 2 near Hastings. The group is expecting to pull the dam's gates and lets water pass in about one to two weeks, said Dan Fasching, a hydrologist with the Army Corps of Engineers.
On average, dams along the Mississippi River had about 65 percent chance of flood action, he said.
The engineers do not expect flooding to be as high as they initially thought based on initial snowpack measurements and projections from the National Weather Service's North Central River Forecast Center, Fasching said.
"The rain we experienced last weekend really took a lot out of that snowpack," he said.
In the presentation he gave for the flood briefing at City Hall, which was repeated for the Hastings City Council on Monday night, Egger also highlighted the city's main areas of concern based on problem areas during past flooding events.
Areas of concern along the Mississippi include private homes, parks and trails, and the Veterans Memorial at Levee Park, Egger said. Last year when the river had minor flooding at 15 1/2 feet, the plaza that the memorial sits on was just covered over with water. If forecasts are correct, Egger said, this year there will be concern of damage to the memorial by objects that may flow down the river.
Residents on the far east side of town may also experience some complications due to flooding. Based on the last flooding event in 2011, Egger said one street to watch will be the First Street underpass.
In 2011, the underpass was closed at a flooding stage of 16 feet. With the underpass closed, the only way to access that part of town will be on Second Street over the railroad tracks, which is a cause for concern, according to Egger.
"We know that it is a large concern for East Hastings neighborhood, and it's a large concern for the city and being able to respond to the needs that come about over there," Egger said. "We do make a point to be harping on CP Rail, in terms of their activity in handling rail traffic through that area, not blocking the tracks."
East Fourth Street near the Vermillion River, County Road 54 and Lock and Dam Road are also areas of concern.
Those who are interested in volunteering to help prepare sandbags this weekend can register online at www.hastingsmn.gov/Home/Components/News/News/5167/16. Registration is through the online portal only. The city of Hastings and the Bless Hastings Group will not accept registration over the phone or email.