Flooding in Brainerd Lakes area, Aitkin sewage plant at risk

- At the height of Monday night’s storms, the National Weather Service warned people in the Brainerd Lakes region to brace for catastrophic and life-threatening flooding. Some areas saw more than 9 inches of rain in just one night.

Flash flood warnings were in effect through 6 a.m. Tuesday across southern Cass, Crow Wing, Aitkin, Carlton, and Pine counties in Minnesota. You should avoid driving in these areas if you encounter flooded roadways, remember: Turn around, don’t drown.

City leaders in Aitkin, Minn. are asking residents to conserve water after heavy rains “infiltrated the sanitary sewer system.” The sewage treatment plant, along the Mississippi River, remains operational following heavy rains on Monday.

The Mississippi River at Aitkin, Minn. is expected to reach 17.9 feet by 7 p.m. Tuesday.  At 18 feet, water will inundate the Aitkin sewage plant.

Taking no chances, officials added pumps to the sewer system, as well as a culvert near the treatment plant. As of Tuesday afternoon, the National Weather Service predicted the river would crest between 15-17 feet around 7:00 Wednesday morning — a level officials say would not cause “major” problems.

Gary Tibbitts, mayor of Aitkin, told Fox 9 “the next 12 to 18 hours are very critical” because additional rains, or upstream water flows, could cause the Mississippi River to rise to levels that could cause the plant to fail.

In addition to putting the plant at risk, Monday’s rains caused flooded basements, backed-up sewage, and flooded roads.

“When I got up this morning, puddles are gone, now we got a lake,” Marlene Tholen told Fox 9 when describing the waters around her house.

At the Ripple River Motel and RV Park, staff evacuated a few campers following a suggestion by the Sheriff’s Office.

Moving east from Aitkin, Crow Wing County had similar flooding problems. Residents were pumping and bailing out their homes.

“When it got about four inches deep, I got a five gallon bucket and started shoveling it into the back room. Well, I couldn’t keep up with it,” Jeff Langie, a Crosby resident, told Fox 9.

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