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Old Man River In The Basement

The Mississippi River seeped into basements and covered parks and boat landings Monday as cautious residents from low-lying areas retreated to higher ground.

Flood warnings were in effect from the Twin Cities along the Minnesota-Wisconsin border to northern Iowa and fears were rising with the river. Communities in Minnesota and North Dakota waited and watched to see if sandbag levees would hold.

Emergency workers rescued a 26-year-old man from the rushing backwaters of the Minnesota River on Sunday but his brother, Marlon Gavarrete, 19, was still missing near Shakopee, southwest of Minneapolis. The men and their car were swept off the road by currents into about 18 feet of water in an area marked off-limits to vehicles, officials said.

"It's going to get worse," said Al Blencoe, an emergency dispatcher in La Crosse, where the river was 4 feet above flood stage at 15.8 feet.

Emergency officials didn't ask residents to evacuate but the order could come Tuesday night, said Al Spaulding, county emergency management coordinator.

Forecasts called for the river near La Crosse to crest at 17 feet early Wednesday, just short of the record 17.9 feet set in 1965, said Mike Welvaert, meteorologist for the National Weather Service.

Along the Mississippi,
Wisconsin residents prepared
for the worst   (AP)
"It's been coming up a good foot every day," said La Crosse homeowner Mike Flaten from the cab of a front-end loader filled with sandbags.

Two houses down, Marjorie and Charlie Collins carried cardboard boxes from their wet basement and considered themselves lucky. They built their home 23 years ago 2 feet above the 100-year flood mark. Their front yard was dry while canoes and boats floated in their neighbors' lawns.

"I'll never forget this one, this Easter. We're lucky. We have nothing to complain about, only a little water in the crawl space," Marjorie Collins said.

Police closed almost every park on the river's edge and several boat landings. Emergency officials warned people to stay off washed-out running trails in the city's marshes and barricaded roads around the city.

More than half of Minnesota's counties had reported some level of flooding by Sunday. Only a few homes were evacuated but many of the state's rivers have yet to crest, including the Mississippi.

"When these rivers peak, it's not like a roller coaster that shoots up and down. The crest can last for days," said Kevin Smith, spokesman for the state Public Safety Department.

In Fargo, N.D., the Red River had dropped by 3 inches Sunday and by an inch at Grand Forks to 44.7 feet.

The Red River topped 54 feet at Grand Forks in 1997, the year it forced residents to virtually empty the city, but on Sunday it dropped slowly along the Minnesota-North Dakot state line, where cities have frantically reinforced dikes against flooding.

Light precipitation was forecast through Tuesday and the rain, combined with melting snow, was expected to bring major flooding through the next week to the Dakotas, the National Weather Service said.

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