Preparing for high water


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The rivers are rising in Minnesota, and the experts have been handing out plenty of advice on what you should do to get ready. But even if you’re not close to a river, some of their advice could be helpful this spring or at some other point in the future.

Protecting your home or business

Most homes have sump pumps and now is a good time to check and make sure they’re working right. Some owners buy a backup pump, to build in a little redundancy should the main one go out. Some home and business owners find warning systems handy as they sound an alarm when water starts flowing into a basement.

Beyond that, there are things you can do to prevent sewage backup, another real flood headache. It may be too late for this spring, but you can have a check valve installed on your main sewer line to prevent sewage from backing up into the basement. That could cost about $500 to install, depending on how much soil you have to move. There are also plugs available to seal drain openings.


For homeowners facing the potential of actual river flooding, beyond sandbagging, the experts say the basement walls should be a major consideration. If you’re certain they’re been reinforced and braced, and if the water just laps at your foundation, you may be able to keep the basement mostly dry with pumps. But if those walls are not reinforced, experts say you probably should let the basement fill with water to equalize the pressure on the walls.

Safeguarding documents

Another priority is to move documents and other valuables to the highest possible point in the house — or move them out of the structure entirely to a safe location. This may go double for businesses, make sure computer and paper records are secure.


If you have to evacuate your house, have the gas, electricity and water shutoff before you leave. When you return, have professionals re-start those utilities for safety.

On the farm

Farmers probably are more on their own than city residents. And even though they’re used to coping with all sorts of situations, the high water will test them too.

Farmers with livestock should make plans about how they’ll care for those animals if they face severe flooding.They have to make sure there’s enough feed and clean water available. Roads are also a problem. Dairy farmers need to truck milk off their farms on a regular basis, so if high water cuts off access they have a real problem and may have to make alternative plans.

Well water

Anyone owning water wells also should be careful. Even if you seal the well, disinfect it after the high water passes and have the water tested before you drink it. Septic systems should also be sealed if possible, but make sure the tank is half full so it doesn’t collapse or float away during high water.

Preventing pollution

The experts also advise home and business owners to take steps to limit pollution if they’re flooded. Fuel tanks should be tied down and sealed. Some owners empty their tanks in advance to limit pollution if they’re flooded.

Paints, solvents and other types of harmful chemical containers should be moved to higher ground. Farmers who have to regularly move manure onto their fields should plan ahead and spread it only on their high ground, or arrange to stockpile it in a safe location until the flood threat is over.

Remember the dog

And lastly, don’t forget about pets. They may need to be moved ahead of time to a safe location.

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