Despite major flooding, Oslo, Minnesota remains accessible by road

The weather service is predicting the Red River will crest in Oslo at 37.6 feet in the evening on Thursday, April 28.

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Oslo mayor, Erika Martens, right, and Cpl. Nicholas Hirdler of the Minnesota National Guard, left, with Private Salma Hernandez, center, are keeping their fingers crossed that water levels will recede even with forecasted rains this weekend.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

OSLO, Minn. — Oslo, Minnesota, was nearly completely surrounded by floodwaters on Wednesday, April 27, but so far, this year’s flood has been an anomaly for the town.

On Wednesday afternoon, the National Weather Service measured the Red River in Oslo at 37.57 feet, the height at which the river usually overtops Minnesota Highway 1 coming into Oslo, making the town of 329 people an island. This year, Highway 1 is still dry.

“This one is different. This one is just really weird,” said Mayor Erika Martins. “Usually when the (National) Guard gets here, they’re driving through six to 14 inches of water coming in on the Minnesota side, and there is none.”

The weather service is predicting the Red River will crest in Oslo at 37.6 feet in the evening on Thursday, April 28. In Oslo, the minor flood stage is 26 feet, the moderate flood stage is at 30 feet and the major flood stage is at 36 feet. The highest recorded crest in Oslo was 38.37 feet in 2009. This year’s crest will be in the top 10 highest floods recorded in Oslo.

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Oslo mayor Erika Martens says that this spring's flood which is expected to crest Thursday evening at 37.6 feet is "a different kind of flood."
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Martens is unsure if water levels will continue to rise and cover Highway 1 as the river crests.


On Wednesday, 16 members of Minnesota National Guard arrived in Oslo and began 24-hour patrolling on the levees, making sure there are no cracks or damage to the earthen structures as floodwaters surround the town. If the need came for sandbagging or an evacuation, the Guard would also assist with those operations.

Martens says the town's relationship with the National Guard is a good one, and that the town is lucky to have its help every time it floods.

“They add so much to the community when they’re here,” said Martens, of the National Guard. “Knowing that this is an elderly community, we don’t have a lot of volunteers and those that we do have, probably shouldn’t be out walking the dike. We’re not profiling or anything, but I don’t want to see anybody getting hurt.”

She said many of the Guard members have been in Oslo to help with flooding in the past, and residents appreciate their work each year.

“Townspeople will spoil them. We have our card lady groups that will start bringing treats and be mad because so and so brought the first banana bread, or lemon bars or whatever,” said Martens.

Others in town echoed that sense of gratitude toward the National Guard.

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Scott Kosmatka, owner of Kosmatka's Market in Oslo, received the last truck of groceries for his store Wednesday before the possibility of MN highway 1 closing Thursday evening.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

“They come every year, and they seem to like coming here too,” said David Dahlstrom of Dhalstrom Motors. “We’re lucky to have them. They’re a blessing for our community.”


Despite high waters, most roads into town closed and the presence of the National Guard, it was business as usual for most of Oslo, Minnesota, on Wednesday. With Highway 1 still open, traffic could come in and out of the town. Mail was delivered and buses from Oslo to the Warren-Alvarado-Oslo School still ran in the morning and afternoon.

Still, the rising waters came fast, with heavy rain and some snow throughout the region on Saturday and Sunday.

“I thought I had a few more days to get trucks here but things went to heck on Saturday,” said Scott Kosmatka, former mayor and owner of Kosmatka’s Market, the town’s grocery store. “I had to rearrange trucks, deliveries, get ahold of everybody and start bulking up. I got my last truck in today, unless it stays open.”

On years when Highway 1 floods, Kosmatka says the National Guard meets trucks bringing groceries on the other side of flooded roads to complete food orders. He expects Highway 1 will close by Thursday night.

More rain is expected later this week, but the National Weather Service has held back from putting any information into river modeling systems because there is still a degree of uncertainty of how much rain the region will get.

Ingrid Harbo joined the Grand Forks Herald in September 2021.

Harbo covers Grand Forks region news, and also writes about business in Grand Forks and the surrounding area.

Readers can reach Harbo at 701-780-1124 or Follow her on Twitter @ingridaharbo.
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