Lake Minnetonka’s Gray’s Bay Dam was closed this week due to low water levels. The dam feeds Minnehaha Creek.
The new U.S. Drought Monitor released today show 45% of Minnesota is now considered “abnormally dry.” This designation is the first stage of drought and is up from 31.5% last week. Most of Minnesota south of Brainerd is now feeling the impacts of our continued dryness.
The hardest hit area remains centered on the Twin Cities and into northwest Wisconsin. Moderate drought dominates east central Minnesota. Severe drought conditions now include most of the metro.
Minnehaha Creek usually flows swiftly this time of year. Not this year.
In an unusual step for June the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District closed the Gray’s Bay Dam Tuesday. The dam feeds water into the creek, which provides critical habitat for wildlife and recreational opportunities for residents in the southwest metro.
The closing comes at an unusual time. June is normally when the highest seasonal flows occur on the creek. Last June Minnehaha Creek roared at a flow rate of 225 cubic feet per second (CFS). That is so fast it is considered dangerous for canoes and kayakers.
To picture 225 CFS is think of it this way. A cubic foot is about the size of a basketball. 225 basketballs racing by each second is a lot of water. The creek is just a trickle in some areas today.
Perhaps the most visible sign of the reduced flow is at Minnehaha Falls. The metro landmark usually roars in June. This year it’s hardly the spectacle so many metro residents enjoy.
The Gray’s Bay Dam will remain closed until Lake Minnetonka Water levels rise about a foot. The lake is down over a foot from last year at this time. Boaters should use caution as lower water levels expose rocks and other lake bottom features usually hidden under deeper water.
There is a chance for some rain this weekend, but it does not look like a drought buster. We need several inches of rain to begin to pull out of what is now becoming a severe long term drought.
Air masses have been exceptionally dry over Minnesota this spring. June is normally our wettest month, and tropical moisture often surges north from the Gulf of Mexico. Dew points often reach the 60’s and 70’s in Minnesota in June. Today dew points are in the 30’s. The moisture content in the air mass overhead is more typical of the desert southwest.
Expect another dry day today with a high approaching 80 in the metro.