Communities in northern Minnesota seek volunteers as flood waters rise

people with sandbags
Volunteers prepare sandbags in Kabetogama Township in advance of expected flooding. They have been working since Tuesday.
Kabetogama Township

Small northern Minnesota communities are preparing for more flooding and are calling for volunteers to help with sandbagging efforts in the coming days.

In Kabetogama Township, near Voyageurs National Park, Township Supervisor John Stegmeir said his area is bracing for a record-breaking flood.

Most docks are under water now at the area’s nearly 200 homes and resorts, with many buildings at risk.

The water level is currently expected to exceed the level of the significant 2014 flood event, with potential to reach the all-time high set in 1950.

Stegmeir said more volunteers are needed, especially since the average age of volunteers sandbagging right now is 65. The volunteers, along with some staff from Voyageurs National Park, have been working since Tuesday.

“I think we've filled 8,000 bags this week, which isn't big when you talk about the flooding on the Red River, they’re talking millions of bags, number one we couldn't do that and the people who have been coming out to bag are older, you know,” he said.

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Volunteers are asked to show up to the town hall office, and to bring gloves and a shovel if you have one.

A flood warning is in effect for many communities in the Rainy River Basin of far northern Minnesota as the National Weather Service expects rivers and creeks to remain high.

Over in Cook County, the owner of Lutsen Resort on Lake Superior is hoping the iconic bridges on the property can be saved. The recent high water levels in the area sent debris rushing down the Poplar River, damaging the bridges.

“While the bridges have been severely damaged, we feel that enough initial infrastructure remains that if we act accordingly, we can save the bridges for future generations to enjoy as many past generations have enjoyed for decades,” a statement read.

The Cook County Highway Department says a large number of Forest Service and Minnesota DN roads throughout Cook County are flooding or washed out. Many are closed and/or impassable and should be avoided.