Mississippi River flooding: Here’s how it will look

The Mississippi River in Saint Paul is now predicted to crest at 19.9 feet next Wednesday or Thursday as all the rain from the southwest part of the state works it way to and up the Minnesota River.


What will that look like? This.

Bob Ingrassia/ MPR News file

This is what a 19-foot level looks like on the downtown side. The bike/jogging paths along the Saint Paul side of the river will be underwater between the Wabasha Bridge and the High Bridge. It probably won’t reach the road (at least on a widespread basis), even though the road will be closed anyway. The creates a traffic headache for commuters, mostly.

The great lawn on Harriet Island, as you’ve probably heard, will flood, as this video from the 19.6 level shows.

Over the years, I’ve kept a file of what various river levels look like. This is what Raspberry Island looks like at 18.5 feet, about a foot lower than the predicted crest.

Another foot should be just enough for water to reach the driveway under the bridge. Access to it, of course, will be blocked.

The predicted level won’t be anywhere near enough to flood the downtown Saint Paul airport. There’s a removable flood wall to protect it. Crews have started installing it — the fifth time it’s been erected — and it could interfere with airport traffic. But as of Friday evening the airport is still open and the FAA hasn’t posted any warnings about it closing.

The Army Corps of Engineers will likely close the river to shipping traffic for a week or so.

The last time there was a significant flood on the Mississippi — 2011 — it crested in Saint Paul at 19.1 feet with few noticing.

The flooding will be nowhere near what it was in 2001 (cool pictures here) when the river was four feet higher than it will be next week.

Of course, with more rain, predictions will change. But for now, it’s more of a nuisance than a disaster.

  • Brian Klawitter

    The Army Corps of Engineers will likely close the river to shipping traffic for a week or so.

    Correction. The Corp may close the locks, but they don’t have the authority to close the river.
    If a city closes a ramp that does not mean the rivers is closed…no matter what the officer tells you.

    • Right, of course. It’s like when every flight is canceled during a storm at the airport. But the airport is still technically open.

  • Kassie

    Your picture of Raspberry Island is pretty much where it was yesterday, and it is still rising. Water was already on Sheppard/Warner Road at Sibley yesterday. You could also see it gurgling up from the sewer on the other side of the road, near Broadway. I was down there Saturday and Harriet Island was open, but when we stopped in Sunday, it was mostly underwater and cops yelled at us to stay on top of the levee.

    • You provide a really great example of how flooding works, Kassie. The water doesn’t come over the top of things as we might expect (well, it does, eventually, I guess), so much as work its way up through sewers and drains. Throw in a little rainfall, and since the drains downtown drain directly to the river, it doesn’t take much to flood out a street.

      BTW, it’s fascinating (well, to me) that the observation this morning was about 7 inches below the prediction of Saturday morning but the crest prediction is now about 7 inches above.

  • Jeff C.

    “But for now, it’s more of a nuisance than a disaster.”

    I suggested that to someone the other day and they told me that for the people who own houseboats at Harriet Island that the flooding is much more than a nuisance. I think he said they had to move their boats out of the river.

    I found a cool webcam that shows the flooding. Different shots every 30 seconds.

    http://www.stpaul.gov/index.aspx?NID=4592

    • Sure. There are always individuals over all that are going to be affected more than others. by and large, however, 19.6 — where we are now — isn’t a big deal to the population of Saint Paul.

      20.5 , where we’ll be tomorrow, is no picnic, but it should be manageable.

      Was hoping to bike from woodbury over to the SSP airport today. Yesterday the levee trail was closed at the low point (just south of the Wakota Bridge) because of about 3 inches of water over the trail. I went through it on yesterday’s ride, but if it’s up another 2 or 3 today that might be a bit more problematic).

      The SSP flood wall is up. People were hanging out at the boat ramp to watch the river. There’s still plenty of height on the levee.

      • This was yesterday (Tuesday) around 9 a.m.

  • jimbo

    my brother’s wedding was planned for late July on Raspberry Island…..total bummer:(

    • It”ll be fine.

      • jimbo

        you really think so? I know they are looking for alternative places, there will be over 150 guests, july 26th. My sister and brother have lived in the twin cities for the last 30 years. the rest of us are still in the Chicago area. I hope what you say is possible. I’ve been there in the past and it’s beautiful. thanks for your optimism, hope your right! peace!