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St. Paul Declares State Of Emergency, Evacuates Impound Lot

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Several pumps are keeping St. Paul's floodwaters at bay. The ever-widening Mississippi River is attracting curious spectators like Barb Stahowiak.

"I'd walk here almost every day during the fall flood, I think it was 2010, and it did not rise like this, not at all," Stahowiak said.

With the flood's crest still two days away, St. Paul's Emergency Management Director Rick Larkin says precautions are in high gear.

"This might be a replay of 2001 where we saw a 23-feet flood stage," Larkin said.

While he hopes that's not the case, Larkin says the city is trying to stay two feet ahead of whatever the river does.

"For us right now it's monitoring, and monitoring pumps and generators and potential for leaks or things like that," Larkin said.

The water that's drawing throngs of curious people to the river would be covering Holman Field, if not for a protective floodwall installed in 2008.

For Dan Richardson, the river's already knocking on the door of his Newport home.

"I think we'll be OK cuz the house is dry right now, and it's just the storage buildings got water in them," Richardson said.

Newport, which is just southeast of St. Paul, is praying an aging, earthen levy can hold back what's still to come.

"It's been there for a long time, it's held so far, but you never know what nature's going to bring you," he said.

City crews are pumping out flooded storm sewers, many of them closed to prevent reverse flow from the river.

But it's the spectacle unfolding along Water Street that's drawing a crowd and keeping emergency managers on high alert.

"We're concerned about the weather forecast, obviously, with potential for a couple more inches of rain to come, that those pumps will just need to be placed in service," he said. "We have back-up pumps that we can move around."

The rising river also has police scrambling to move hundreds of impounded cars. On Tuesday morning, half a dozen tow-truck companies began removing the vehicles and taking them to neighboring lots, including the Minnesota State Fairgrounds.

It's unclear exactly how many cars will be moved over the next few days, but Sgt. Paul Paulos with the St. Paul Police Department says there are upwards of 500 vehicles.

The impound lot is on the city's west side at 830 Barge Channel Road, and at this point it's considered closed.

Impound Lot Evacuation

"The water's just taking its natural course," Sgt. Paulos said. "It's seeping up. As the water level rises, as you know, I know, it has to go somewhere."

Police are still working with vehicle owners to get them their cars. For now, anyone who has a car towed can still call 651-266-5642 for information.

"All I ask is if the citizens of St. Paul have a car that was towed, whether it was abandoned or for an incident, please be patient with us," Sgt. Paulos said.

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