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Emergency personnel inspired by number of volunteers in Crookston as Red Lake River recedes

The Red Lake River in Crookston crested early morning Monday, April 25, at 27.07 feet, under the expected crest of 28.5 feet.

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Crookston resident Randy Huelskamp rakes twigs and other debris from his yard after the level of the Red Lake River fell on Monday, April 25, 2022.
Korrie Wenzel / Grand Forks Herald
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CROOKSTON, Minn. – Water levels on Monday receded in Crookston, one day after the city saw an outpouring of volunteers from the community and around the region to help contain rapidly rising waters.

While he does not have an official number for how many people volunteered on Sunday, April 24, Police Chief Darin Selzler says it is somewhere in the hundreds.

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Two National Guard soldiers walk along the dike in Crookston on Monday, April 25, 2022. Levels of the Red Lake River fell on Monday, giving some relief to Crookston residents and others who worked over the weekend to fight back floodwaters with sandbags and temporary earthen dikes.
Korrie Wenzel / Grand Forks Herald

“It was really inspiring to see that we had hundreds and hundreds of volunteers — really humbling and just awesome to see the community come together,” Selzler said.

The Red Lake River in Crookston crested early morning Monday, April 25, at 27.07 feet, under the expected crest of 28.5 feet . Volunteers worked from early afternoon on Saturday, April 23, to 8 p.m. on Sunday filling and placing sandbags in Crookston.

By Monday afternoon, river levels had dropped to just over 26 feet. As water levels recede, emergency responders and the National Guard continue to monitor levees. The Crookston Emergency Operations Center will remain open until river levels drop below 20 feet, the flood stage at Crookston for moderate flooding.

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Ben, left, and Matt Genereux, right, throw sandbags with their cousin Josh Knaack, center, at Trinity Lutheran Church near the flooding Red Lake River in Crookston, MN, Sunday, April 24, 2022.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

“We’re projecting, this is best guess, that we will be active probably through Thursday or up to Thursday,” said Selzler.

The National Guard was sent to Crookston to assist in flood operations after Gov. Tim Walz declared a peacetime emergency on Sunday afternoon. The 134th Brigade Support Battalion from Camp Ripley, led by Cpt. Ryan Graen, started arriving around 3 p.m. and brought 52 people.

On Sunday, the National Guard helped fill sandbags at the City Street Shop, and placed sandbags in low areas across town. Now, Guard members have taken over levee patrols from volunteers, and will remain in Crookston until the river recedes to 20 feet. They are operating from the Emergency Operations Center based in Crookston City Hall.

National Guard at Crookston
The Minnesota National Guard was activated to Crookston on Sunday evening to help with sandbagging efforts there.
Submitted photo by Matthew Leiphon

“We’ve got three routes we’re currently monitoring, all around kind of centrally based from here, ensuring that the levee is holding and none of the water is getting through,” said Graen.

On Monday morning, 19 personnel from the National Guard stationed in Crookston were sent to Fisher, Minnesota, downstream on the Red Lake River to help with the flood fight there .

Sandbagging defended the Crookston Public Library, Fire Department and Trinity Church, but not all areas of town were safe from the rising waters.

The river breached the dike on Riverside Avenue on Sunday afternoon, flooding the 400 block of the street and surrounding a few structures on the street.

On Monday, Jeff and Cheryl Kostrzewski, with their son Ben, were picking up after the Riverside breach caused their garage and basement to become flooded. Since moving to the house in 2005, they had not seen water top the levee in their neighborhood, and had been told their house sat in the 500-year floodplain.

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“This is the deepest it’s ever gotten,” said Jeff Kostrzewski. “We didn’t expect it — to the middle of the driveway maybe (in the past), and that was at an extreme.”

Although Monday's water levels had fallen, they still had water up to the edge of their garage — an improvement over Sunday, when water flowed into their home.

Just across the street was another house completely surrounded. Jeff Kostrzewski said that neighbor was in the 100-year floodplain.

On Washington Avenue, Randy Huelskamp was picking up debris left by the high water levels in his riverfront backyard. He said the river is usually 10 to 12 feet away from where it reached on Monday afternoon.

“In '97, water was pretty high, but I swear it’s higher than it was in '97,” he said. In 1997, the Red Lake River crested at a record 28.4 feet in Crookston.

Despite his house being next to the river, the only damage to his property was landscaping. He says city dikes and a rock riprap helped protect his house.

The Red Lake River in Crookston was originally expected to crest at 29 feet, but the National Weather Service downgraded the predicted crest to 28.5 feet on Sunday afternoon. The crest this year is still the third highest crest of the Red Lake River in Crookston after the crest in 1969 of 27.33 feet and the record crest of 28.4 feet in 1997. The flood stage in Crookston is 15 feet. The stage for moderate flooding is 20 feet, and anything over 23 feet is considered a major flood.

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Related Topics: CROOKSTONFLOODINGMINNESOTA
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 iharbo@gfherald.com. Follow her on Twitter @ingridaharbo.
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