High water, flood walls remain on Lake of the Woods
WARROAD, Minn. - Temporary flood walls remain standing along the shore of Lake of the Woods in Warroad two months after construction. "Everything's up. We're hoping, if the water continues to recede, that we will start removing some of our flood ...
WARROAD, Minn. – Temporary flood walls remain standing along the shore of Lake of the Woods in Warroad two months after construction.
“Everything’s up. We’re hoping, if the water continues to recede, that we will start removing some of our flood protection by the end of the month,” Warroad Police Chief and Emergency Manager Wade Steinbring said.
Unusually wet weather this spring and early summer hit northern Minnesota, as well as southern Manitoba and Ontario, sending the Rainy River out of its banks and resulting in the worst flooding seen in 85 years in International Falls.
As a consequence, by late June, Lake of the Woods rose to 1,062.8 feet above sea level, its highest elevation in more than a decade and about a foot higher than normal summertime levels.
“I don’t think any floodwater touched any of our barriers or any of our flood protection, but we still had it up,” Steinbring said.
On Wednesday, Federal Emergency Management Agency representatives visited Warroad and other areas of northern Minnesota to begin the flood recovery process, according to Steinbring.
“We don’t know what there is for damage,” he said. “We’ll have to wait until the water drops to get an accurate assessment.”
The lake has receded about 1½ feet since then, to 1,061.3 feet on Thursday, according to the latest report by the Lake of the Woods Control Board.
The report indicated the average lake elevation has dropped by about 5 inches in the past week. Officials forecast a drop of another 4 to 5 inches over the next week.
“Due to generally drier weather and reductions in outflow from the dam at Rainy Lake upstream, inflow into Lake of the Woods has been declining sharply,” the latest LWCB notice reported.
The board’s goal, the report said, is to return Lake of the Woods and the Winnipeg River in Ontario to seasonally normal levels by the end of September.
The lake has reached or approached 1,065 feet twice in the past 65 years. In 1950, it reached 1,064.56 feet, resulting in widespread damage to portions of the community.
Earthen levees were built to 1,065 feet after the most recent flood, in 2002, when the lake reached 1,065.69 feet, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Thursday’s wet, gloomy weather was a reminder of conditions in June in Warroad.
But that didn’t dampen the spirits of locals who make their living through the tourism industry in the town of 1,700 people.
While the season was slow to start, it has not been lost, according to Donna LaDuke, executive director of the Warroad Area Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“From the chamber and tourism perspective, we did see a large delay in our tourism numbers,” she said. “It was cold and rainy. In July, as soon as it started to get nice out, the tourists started coming.”
Vicki Ingebrigtson, the manager of Seven Clans Lake View Restaurant on The Point, said the slow times this summer have been few and far between.
“Business has been pretty good,” she said. “People are coming to check it out.”
The public campground, located near the restaurant, has been at near capacity for several weeks.
In June, Ingebrigtson and her staff supplied sandwiches and other refreshments to volunteers building the temporary dike that protected the restaurant. But the temporary flood protection measures also closed water access to the business.
“Boaters couldn’t dock right at the restaurant,” she said. “They had to go about three blocks, down to the bigger docks. And our parking was a little further away, so it was a little inconvenient. But business has been pretty steady.”
LaDuke said the community can thank the army of volunteers who came to lend a hand when floodwaters threatened the town and surrounding area. Local officials estimate the population within a five-mile radius of Warroad at about 5,000.
“At that time, the blood pressure was very high,” she said. “We were fortunate that we had a lot of volunteers. They came from Roseau and all around. It was amazing what our neighbors did.”