St. Croix Marina Harbor Master Dave “Hogie” Hogan maintains a tradition of marking the flood pole started by longtime river raconteur Leonard John “Blackie” LeBore, who died in January at 86.
“The guy who owned the slip, Len LaBore, marked it for years,” says Hogan, a Hudson native and veteran river-watcher who has worked at the marina since 1989.
According to his obituary in the Hudson Star Observer, LaBore was a storyteller, world traveler, Navy pilot/reservist, public relations officer for the Navy’s Blue Angels, longtime 3M employee and commander of “The Gazebo,” a pink houseboat at the marina.
The rusty pole rises about 20 feet up from the the end of Dock B. “Now we take a little craft out at crest and paint the mark,” Hogan said.
The uppermost mark—April 27, 2001—is about three-quarters the way up the pole. “In 1965, I’m told it was about two feet higher than the top of the pole,” says Hogan.
The near-record spring flood of 2001 destroyed the marina's two buildings and two rental properties. The marina's new facility opened in 2002 and includes a clubroom, ship store, service department, offices, a rental apartment on the second floor and maintenance garage.
“The building’s at 695 feet now. If we see it coming up higher than that we have to come up with a new plan,” Hogan says.
A typical spring launch is about mid-April, but last year Hogan says the river crested March 25, the earliest in his memory. “It’s a waiting game until it starts melting—anything can happen—how much snow and rain we get, the temperature, the rate of melt,” says Hogan. “It’s just too early to tell.”
All hands come on deck in the spring. “It’s a really busy two weeks for us. Slip owners, renters come in and some gas dock employees help out,” Hogan says.
Hogan says last year’s dual floods—spring and fall—were the first he'd witnessed and very unusual. The marks show March 25, 2010, and Oct. 3, 2010, a few inches below.
The first boat usually floats at 688 feet and most are down at 691, Hogan says. Flood stages start at 687 feet with the record set in 1965 at 694, according to the National Weather Service.
At this first boating “event” of the season, Hogan keeps busy as harbor master. “People I meet and my friends wonder why I don’t have a boat,” Hogan says. “I don’t go boating much on the weekends because I’m around them so much during the week. The saying goes, ‘Bust Out Another Thousand.’”
And it’s likely Hogan has many friends with boats.
Data from the National Weather Service
Other businesses along the river like Xcel Energy’s Allen S. King Plant also watch the river levels and data indicators carefully this time of year. “We’re at 693 feet,” says Darren Kearney, plant environmental analyst. “We’ll watch the information from the National Weather Service to determine when to start constructing a berm around the coal yard, which is lower than our main facility.”
- (1) 94.10 ft on 04/18/1965
- (2) 92.30 ft on 04/27/2001
- (3) 92.20 ft on 04/16/1969
- (4) 91.10 ft on 04/16/2001
- (5) 90.45 ft on 04/12/1997
95 - Estimated top of the flood protection dike in Afton.
94 - Estimated top of the flood protection dike at St Croix Beach.
92.5 - Approximate 100-year flood stage.
90 - Highway 95 between Afton and Bayport begins to experience flooding.
89 - The city park in Bayport begins flooding.
86 - Due to safety issues...the Stillwater lift bridge will closed near the stage.
85 - Several residences along the river may experience flooding in their basements.
83 - Minnesota and Wisconsin may impose a no wake zone on the river.
78 - The Stillwater Riverwalk becomes innundated.
Flood Categories (in feet)
- Major Flood Stage: 89
- Moderate Flood Stage: 88
- Flood Stage: 87
- Action Stage: 80