As our record-setting snows this winter melt into the rivers, we’re seeing flooding happening throughout Minnesota. As of Friday, there were bridge closures in Jordan, Chaska, and St. Peter, as well as many other road closures. In Saint Paul, the low-lying Water Street was flooded early in the season, closing on March 14th. As the river levels rose, the city put more closures into place, including Hidden Falls, Crosby Farm, Shepard Road, and the Sam Morgan bicycle path along the river.
I’d been happily enjoying bicycling along the river for the past couple weeks, now that the snow and ice chunks had melted enough for my route to be passable. I watched the rising river with a bit of sadness: I’d lose my river route again! But I embraced this opportunity to take photos of the riverfront as the water level increases.
The first signs are subtle, as the steps at Raspberry Island become submerged, and the water slowly overcomes the boulders and creeps around the trees. “Path closed” signs begin appearing as the city prepares for the inevitable flood. And then, one day, the landing begins to get streaks of water running over it.
As we approach “major flood stage” (17 feet), the lowest part of the walkway along the river is fully under water.
Parts of Shepard Road are also beginning to flood, and the road is expected to become impassable within the day. The city’s closures are in place, with car traffic detoured around the area.
The flooding has created a still surface for the reflection of the log mural at Lower Landing, making ephemeral art.
Flooding in Minnesota is likely to become increasingly common and severe, even outside of the spring melt, as our planet’s climate changes. As described in the Fourth National Climate Assessment, we’ve already seen significant increases in precipitation levels, and they’re projected to increase even more:
Climate change poses several challenges to transportation and storm water systems in the Midwest. Annual precipitation in the Midwest has increased by 5% to 15% from the first half of the last century (1901–1960) compared to present day (1986–2015). Winter and spring precipitation are important to flood risk in the Midwest and are projected to increase by up to 30% by the end of this century. Heavy precipitation events in the Midwest have increased in frequency and intensity since 1901 and are projected to increase through this century.
The two southerly routes through Saint Paul, along Shepard or via 4th from Wilius to Commercial, are both predicted to be flooded and are currently closed. There is, unfortunately, no easy alternative.
For my commute, I will likely bike up to the Capital and then along Phelan Blvd, cutting down to Burns via Johnson Pkwy. It’s quite a bit further, and I will miss my river views. If you need routing advice, leave a comment and I can give you some suggestions.