Mississippi River hits highest crest in 20+ years

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This sign greets river visitors at the south boat landing. (Press photo by Austin Greve)

By Shelia Tomkins

The Mississippi River at Guttenberg hit the third highest crest on record late last week, holding nearly steady before beginning a slow fall on Sunday.

Around midnight on Saturday morning, April 29, the river hit 20.97 feet at Lock and Dam 10 before falling to 20.96 feet by 1 a.m. that day. By late Sunday, river levels were down approximately a half a foot and were expected to continue to fall through the coming week, with 17.5 feet predicted by Sunday, May 7. In Guttenberg, major flood stage begins at 21 feet, moderate at 18 feet and flood stage at 15 feet.

The highest historic crest here was 23.65 feet on April 24, 1965, followed by a crest of 21.68 feet in 2001, making this year's the third highest on record.

Guttenberg is protected by a levee, earthen dike, canals, ponding areas and pumping stations. However, in many areas of town residents are dealing with rising groundwater seeping into basements, and are using sump pumps to remove water.

Residents of Esmann and Abel Islands just to the north of Guttenberg are bearing the brunt of the flood woes. The causeway road to those areas went under when the river reached 19 feet. The islands are filled with both year-round and seasonal homes. Some full-time residents left the island as the river rose, while others stayed on and used boats to travel to the mainland. 

The historic flood attracted regional and national attention, with media interviews with local residents and many photos shared in major newspapers and television stations. The town also saw an influx of visitors to view the high water.

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