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Minnesota braces as flooded rivers approach their peak

June 23 (Reuters) - Minnesotans braced for floodwaters to peak on area rivers and state leaders worked on crafting response plans on Monday after near-record June rains that caused widespread flooding, damaged crops and forced road closures, stat...

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The flooded property of Leo Kostreba on Little Red Sand Drive Southwest north of Pillager on Thursday. Volunteers sandbagged his home last Tuesday hoping to keep out the rising water. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls

June 23 (Reuters) - Minnesotans braced for floodwaters to peak on area rivers and state leaders worked on crafting response plans on Monday after near-record June rains that caused widespread flooding, damaged crops and forced road closures, state officials said.

The heavy rains that swamped parts of Minnesota also wreaked havoc in South Dakota, North Dakota and Iowa, and flooding has stretched into Wisconsin and western Illinois, the National Weather Service said.

The Mississippi River at the state capital of St. Paul is expected to reach 20.5 feet (6.25 meters) within three days, more than six feet above flood stage, and weather service flood warnings dot Minnesota from north to south.

The last three summers have been particularly bad in Minnesota for deluge-type rains in which a large amount of rain falls over a short period of time, said Joe Kelly, Minnesota's deputy director of homeland security and emergency management.

"We've had some strange weather patterns in the past three years," Kelly said.

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Kelly said Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton was meeting with state agency leaders to discuss the flooding and their plans going forward.

Some parts of Minnesota in June were soaked by 1 to 2 inches of rain (2.5 to 5 cm) daily for 10 consecutive days. About half of the state's counties have reported flood damage.

The state is close to marking its rainiest June based on climate records that date to the late 19th century, said Pete Boulay, climatologist with the state's Department of Natural Resources.

Kelly said the flooding has not caused fatalities in Minnesota, but has impacted farmland as well as roads, bridges, water treatment facilities and other public infrastructure.

Authorities have closed the city of Stillwater's historic lift bridge across the swollen St. Croix River that connects Minnesota and Wisconsin and are laying barriers at a smaller airport in St. Paul and along Interstate 35 to brace for more flooding.

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