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Crow Wing, Morrison counties declare states of emergency for flooding

Two more counties declared states of emergency Thursday as local governments broadened the response to widespread flooding in north-central Minnesota.

Two more counties declared states of emergency Thursday as local governments broadened the response to widespread flooding in north-central Minnesota.

Commissioners in Crow Wing and Morrison counties opted to join Aitkin County in declaring local states of emergency. The move is a necessary step toward obtaining disaster assistance funding from the state, in order to cover part of the damages to public infrastructure.

Aitkin County would need to have damages of $28,920.57 or higher in order to qualify for the funds, according to state thresholds based on population. Morrison County would need $59,258.43, and Crow Wing County would need $111,562.50.

The Minnesota Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management initiated a partial activation of the State Emergency Operations Center. This meant the agency would monitor the situation and maintain contact with county officials.

"Although there (have) been no requests for state assistance, HSEM is prepared to provide any necessary assistance as needed," the department said on its website.

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The National Weather Service continued its flood warning for the Mississippi River at Aitkin and near Fort Ripley, and the Snake River near Pine City in Pine County.

"The rivers are forecast to crest within the next few days ... then subside through the weekend into early next week," the NWS said on its website.

As of 9:30 a.m. Thursday, the Mississippi near Fort Ripley was 10.6 feet, or .6 feet over flood stage. The river will continue to rise to about 11.3 feet by Friday evening, then fall below flood stage Wednesday afternoon, NWS said. At 11 feet, the river will cause "minor flooding of rural areas" near the town.

Previously, the river crested at 10.3 feet in 2015.

Morrison County engineer Steve Backowski said the county closed County Road 234 in multiple spots, and County Road 254 at Minnesota Highway 25. County Road 244 was also closed after a large box culvert washed out, which Backowski said was likely the most expensive occurrence of damage to the county from the flooding.

The Mississippi at Aitkin was 14.1 feet as of 9:30 a.m. Thursday, the NWS said. Flood stage for that point of the river is 13 feet. The river will keep rising to about 14.2 feet by Thursday evening, then fall below flood stage sometime late Sunday morning. "Minor flooding" is occurring and expected to continue, the NWS said. The flood is comparable to one in 2008, when the river crested at 13.9 feet.

At 15 feet, the floodwater would surround homes in the Cedarbrook neighborhood of Aitkin and flood the city park, the agency said.

The Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office received reports of submerged docks and shore erosion as a result of heavy rains. Extensive wave action in these areas can cause a great deal of damage, the sheriff's office said in a news release.

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The sheriff's office requested caution when boating, and made a special request to wakeboarding boats to operate far from shore when pulling wakeboarders.

In Pine County, a dam near the city of Willow River overflowed Wednesday, although it appeared to be structurally sound. Nearby, County Highway 61 was closed and barricaded.

The Pine County Sheriff's office posted on Facebook Thursday that deputies were instructed to arrest anyone caught in the barricaded area.

UPDATE: This article has been updated to reflect that the Crow Wing County Board of Commissioners did not vote on the resolution declaring a state of emergency, rather, it was approved by the board chair under authority granted by state law.

ZACH KAYSER may be reached at 218-855-5860 or Zach.Kayser@brainerddispatch.com . Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ZWKayser .

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