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Flooding along border prompts Guard response

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INTERNATIONAL FALLS — The good news for flood-weary residents along the Minnesota-Ontario border is that the amount of water moving through local rivers dropped a bit Wednesday after having peaked Tuesday.

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The bad news is that there’s a good chance of more rain from today through the weekend.

“It’s looking like a good inch (of additional rainfall) over much the area in the next few days, and there’s just no where for that water to go,” said Matt DeWolfe, executive engineer for the Lake of the Woods Control Board.

And even as some rivers dipped at midweek, officials predict Rainy Lake could rise another foot or more in coming days, breaching sandbag dikes, flooding more roads and causing even more damage.

Gov. Mark Dayton on Wednesday authorized 100 Minnesota National Guard personnel to assist volunteers working to protect property, Koochiching County Commissioner Rob Ecklund said. Officials also said several more groups of volunteers are coming to help.

The Guard unit is expected to arrive tonight.

“We’re also expecting to ask for a state incident command team. This is getting to be a little too much for just the county and the city (International Falls) to handle,” Ecklund said. “Having the Guard come in will be a big help.”

The Rainy River at Manitou Rapids, downstream from International Falls, peaked at an all-time high of 22.01 feet Tuesday but then dropped a bit to 21.67 feet Wednesday — still higher than any previous flood.

In other good news, upstream, near Squirrel Island where the water system flows from Namakan Lake into Rainy Lake, the flow appeared to have peaked Tuesday at 341.55 feet above sea level before falling slightly to 341.54 Wednesday. And, farther upstream, the Vermilion River, where it enters crane Lake, dropped from more than 13 feet earlier this week to 12.86 feet Wednesday, according to U.S. Geological Service data.

Those depths indicate that less water is flowing in from the south and east after rising for nearly a week.

But the high water isn’t going away anytime soon. Rainy Lake continues to receive more water than it can expel, and the level is expected to rise for several more days, DeWolfe said, perhaps 12-15 inches more. That’s bad news for cabins, home and resort owners along the lake who have struggled to keep the water out of their buildings. Even without more rain it would take weeks for lake water levels to drop to normal levels.

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