From the fourth floor of the Twin Cities PBS offices, we have a clear view of the Mississippi River, peacefully gliding downstream, safely within the confines of the river bank. But the spring thaw has changed the landscape of downtown St. Paul as the water begins to crest, prompting emergency teams to put up barricades and shut down sections of Shepard Road. With the National Weather Service reporting “above to much above normal” flood risk in the region, we dove into the archives to see how TPT has covered past flooding and the long history the state has with the devastating effects of rising waters.


Cathy Wurzer and the Almanac team look at the “flood of the century” in 1965.


Mary Lahammer’s Minnesota’s Fiercest Floods takes a deep dive into the history of flooding across the state, and the people who work to predict which rivers will spill over and to prevent widespread damage. In this clip, we get a quick overview of some of the most noteworthy floods in Minnesota, beginning in 1826.


Few floods touch the magnitude and devastation of the 1997 Red River catastrophe. Cresting as high as 54 feet in places, no one predicted the severity of what will be remembered as one of the worst floods in Minnesota history. In another clip from Minnesota’s Fiercest Floods, Mary Lahammer talks to those involved about what went wrong and what was learned.


NewsNight Minnesota was on the scene in 1997 to capture images of flooding in downtown Saint Paul, Hastings, Savage and even Wisconsin. Ken Stone reports.

Looking back at our state’s timeline of natural disasters, it’s clear that Minnesota is no stranger to epic floods that have wreaked havoc on communities, changed the way we think about the use of flood plains and even spurred national legislation. So as Minnesota rivers continue to rise this spring, a peek at the past offers a sobering glimpse at the destruction that floods can cause, as well as a glimmer of hope – after all, we’ve been here before.


This story is made possible by the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund and the citizens of Minnesota.