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Two Rivers River crests at Hallock

A family watches the foaming water below the Lake Bronson (Minn.) Dam. The state park personnel opened all three gates to full capacity Monday. (Photo by Anna Jauhola)

HALLOCK, Minn. - The Two Rivers at Hallock crested early Thursday morning at about 807 feet above sea level.

Ice jams and warmer weather, along with Lake Bronson Dam releasing water, increased the levels last week on the Two Rivers throughout Kittson County.

Hallock employees have been preparing for weeks and have all the pumps in place and culverts closed along the levee system. Now they're just taking it day by day, said Dan Larson, city maintenance foreman, while keeping a close eye on the water levels.

The Two Rivers above the Hallock dam was still solid ice Wednesday, but as water flowing out of Lake Bronson's dam made it downstream, the ice broke up overnight and was wide open Thursday morning. Huge chunks of ice were on the shoreline in Gilbert Olson Park, where the Two Rivers runs through the Hallock dam.

Lake Bronson State Park Manager Jenny Eastvold said they began releasing water April 4 through one gate on the dam to help break up the ice.

"We gradually increased the discharge amounts last week, but at very low flows since there wasn't much flow coming out of the lake," she said in an email. "Last weekend is when the water started coming in due to the warm weather and rain."

Eastvold said they had all three gates fully raised by Monday.

By Wednesday, the dam was releasing 2,774 cubic feet per second of water. Eastvold said the level of Lake Bronson has been holding steady after levels on the river and in ditches stabilized.

"So, we're hoping this is the peak," she said.

Keeping all that in mind, Hallock Emergency Manager Mike Docken said Wednesday that he and city employees will watch ice jams along the Two Rivers as well as the incoming storm. The storm is expected to drop between 1 and 3 inches of snow in Kittson County.

Dan Money, director of the Two Rivers Watershed District, said river levels are going down across the district. Some gauges along the Two Rivers show that first crest, he said, but the river could crest a second time once the weather warms up again.

"The cold has helped slow down the runoff," Money said. "And the crest on the Two Rivers will happen well ahead of the Red River."

Students from Kittson Central in Hallock, Tri-County in Karlstad and Lancaster schools filled sandbags Tuesday at the MnDOT truck shop in Hallock.

"Those kids are machines. I was really impressed with that," said Scot Olson, Kittson County emergency manager.

About 50 kids filled and loaded more than 3,000 sandbags onto pallets, managed by nine county and city employees and volunteers. The Kittson County Chapter of The Salvation Army served lunch and provided water and snacks, as well.

About 2,500 of the sandbags are being stored at the county Quonset in Hallock.

The county has already closed several roads along the Red River, said Shawn Anderson, maintenance foreman. But, as overland flooding spreads, workers have also encountered flooded roads, and one has washed out. County Road 2 north of Highway 11 between Donaldson and Karlstad is totally impassable.

"If there's a silver lining in this whole thing, it's going to be real quick," Anderson said of the flooding.