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Melting snow threatens to flood parking lot

April 1, 2011

As the snow continues to melt and the rain starts to fall, the threat of flooding in the South Fork of the Kinnickinnic River near the N parking lot increases, said University Police Officer Steve Nygaard.

N lot, located south of Hawthorn Hall on a floodplain, is the lowest parking lot and usually the only one with flooding issues.

K lot flooded once when a water main broke, but generally the rest are high enough that they will not flood on a normal basis, Nygaard said.

“The floodplains are monitored anytime heavy snowmelt or rain occur.  Once it becomes a concern, we continue to monitor it,” Nygaard said.

On March 22 the police and parking office began monitoring the water levels near N lot and the walking path every hour to half hour, Nygaard said.

Around noon on March 22, students parked in N lot received an email from the police and parking office requesting them to move their vehicles to the commuter lot located near Ramer Field.  Students were allowed to move their vehicles back to the parking lot at noon on March 24, Nygaard said.

“The water levels became a concern on March 22 when it got close to the bridge level.  This means it is close to the point where water will come into the lot,” Nygaard said.

According to the parking website, it is the student’s responsibility to move their vehicles or risk being towed.

According to one section, “It is the responsibility of the vehicle operator to be aware of these weather conditions and to be prepared to move their vehicle if severe conditions should occur.”

Students Justin Stolpe and Will Larson said they were upset with the threat the parking office issued in the email, which said the remaining vehicles could be towed.

“I think that we should be able to move them at our own risk.  It’s a hassle for us,” Stolpe said.

“Buying a parking permit releases the university from all damages, why should we get threatened to be towed?” Larson asked.

On average, students have to move their car to the commuter lot once each spring during the snowmelt, but also during extensive rainfall, Nygaard said.

Police and parking generally just ask students to move their vehicles rather than sandbagging the lot because it is the more cost effective measure with the use of time and resources, Nygaard said.

Other students who park in N lot, Claire LeFeure and Jessica Pearce, found the security to be a benefit and a hassle.

“When I got back from class, it said I had to move my car immediately. I don’t use my car that much, but for people who have jobs in Hudson it would be a hassle to move their vehicles because they have to allow time to walk,” LeFeure said.

“I guess I’m okay with moving it if it was actually going to flood.  We do what we gotta do,” Pearce said.  “Last fall, we only had to move if we wanted to, but it was mandatory this time,” she said.

Pierce County Emergency Management Director Gary Brown said that most of the flooding threats for the area fall near the Mississippi River rather than anywhere near River Falls.

“The only chance would be some issue of flash flooding where we would get lots of rain in a short amount of time, otherwise there is no current threat to the River Falls area,” Brown said.