Rain may spark flooding in southwest Minnesota

Photo by Jenny Kirk City of Hendricks maintenance worker Aaron Moravetz shovels snow away from a storm drain on Tuesday in preparation for potential flooding issues because of the rain forecasted today and Thursday.

HENDRICKS — City workers around the area are gearing up for another winter system — one that includes significant rainfall, a little snow and extremely high winds — starting today through Thursday.

Meteorologist Brad Temeyer, reporting from the National Weather Service office in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, said the Marshall area looks to receive about an inch and a half of rain, with higher amounts off to the west getting even higher amounts.

“The heaviest is expected during the afternoon hours (today),” Temeyer said. “The rain will begin to increase across the area, especially once you get into the latter half of (today). Looking at the afternoon, there’s likely to be about three-quarters of an inch of rain. Then it looks like lighter amounts overnight into Thursday. Then you could see another couple tenths throughout the day on Thursday before the precipitation type switches over to snow.”

In the early morning hours on Thursday, Temeyer said area residents could see a transition from a drizzle to freezing rain and then to snow. And while only an inch is forecast, Temeyer said very, very strong winds, with gusts of up to 50 miles per hour, are expected throughout the day on Thursday.

“The system does look to be pretty rough,” he said. “We’re not forecasting a lot of additional snow for you guys — maybe around 1 inch — but with the winds as strong as they will be and all the snow on the ground, I do expect blowing snow. That’s still going to be a problem.”

On Tuesday in Hendricks, city maintenance worker Aaron Moravetz and maintenance supervisor Kevin Huber were busy preparing for the additional precipitation.

“We’re trying to chop open the storm sewers, so the water can go down them,” Moravetz said. “If we get the 2 inches of rain they’re talking about this week, we’re going to have some flooding problems.”

Like most communities in southwest Minnesota, Hendricks has received a huge amount of snowfall this winter. Now with the rain coming, the city workers are basically forced to play a hide and seek guessing game.

“The hard part is finding the storm drains,” Moravetz said. “You have to try and remember where they’re at, so you’re chopping in the right spot. (Huber) is going around with the plow. He’s trying to plow the snow back where the problem ones are, so we can start chopping down.”

For his part, Moravetz used a pick ax and a shovel.

“It’s been a long winter,” he said. “Every single week, we’ve been out moving snow now since the middle of January.”

City of Marshall officials recently posted flood information and tips for flood mitigation for its residents on Facebook. The city is continuing to remove snow at the curbside and has crews out opening catch basins to allow snow melt and rain to drain away, where possible.

Tracy Police Chief Jason Lichty shared a similar message for his community, noting that the city of Tracy is actively taking measures to prepare for the forecasted rain and potential flooding that may occur. Lichty encouraged residents to direct sump pumps to pump out to the street and not into the sanitary sewer. He also asked that residents keep an eye on catch basins near their homes to make sure ice dams or debris are not restricting water flow.

The city of Tracy also has sandbagging materials on hand and will provide them to residents at no cost. Lichty said individuals are responsible for filling the bags and placing them where they are needed.

Temeyer had positive news to report for the area in the near future.

“The good news is that it does look like once we get this system out of here, it’s setting up for a really good warming trend,” he said. “It looks to be warm during the day and cool in the evening. That’s the ideal way you’d want this to melt and work its way down the rivers.”

Temeyer said the forecasted high for Friday is around 32 degrees, with highs in the mid-30s over the weekend and into Monday. Then it starts to warm up even more during the day and drops back into the lower 20s during the evening.

“The silver lining is once we get past this system, we’re not seeing anything for the next seven days,” Temeyer said. “It’s a really nice freeze-thaw process that helps gradually get rid of some of that moisture.”