St. Paul Airport puts up floodwall ahead of expected flooding

Ahead of expected flooding, parts of St. Paul are preparing for the rising waters.

At the St. Paul Downtown Airport, crews are setting up the floodwall. It’s a protection system the Metropolitan Airports Commission had installed in a decade ago and in that time, they’ve had plenty of practice putting it up.

“You know, we’ve got an experienced crew,” said Joe Harris, St. Paul Airport manager. “A lot of them have put up the wall before. We’ve deployed it five times, so they’re very efficient.”

The full floodwall at Holman Field is 1.8 miles long. Some of that is an earthen levy next to and between runways. It’s also made up a permanent wall along the river. The first 1,200 feet of the deployable sections went in over the last few days, closing two shorter runways. But, there’s still work to be done.

“The river keeps rising at a faster rate than we would like to see, so that continues to put stress on us,” said Harris.

Over the weekend, crews will install the rest of the wall. It will cut across the main runway, which will make it shorter, but still usable.

“It’s important to know when the wall is deployed, the airport is still open for business and operational, but the overall runway length gets shortened by that 1150 feet,” said Harris.

Not far from Holman, signs warn of impending road closures in St. Paul beginning Sunday at 10 p.m.  

The Mississippi River rose 3.5 feet since Tuesday. It is expected to go up another six feet by Monday and rise another couple feet by the end of the week.

“We don’t want to leave anything to chance, we want to protect the airport, which means we got to work this weekend,” said Harris.