Sandbags in place; depot partially vacatedUncertain just how bad it's going to get in the coming weeks, the Red Wing Arts Association is packing up and moving out of the Milwaukee Road Depot before the Mississippi River spills over its banks.
By: Ruth Nerhaugen, The Republican Eagle
Uncertain just how bad it's going to get in the coming weeks, the Red Wing Arts Association is packing up and moving out of the Milwaukee Road Depot before the Mississippi River spills over its banks.
Temporary quarters for the association - a space dubbed Noah's Art Spring Flood Gallery - have been set up in the former Sherwin-Williams Co. paint store, 305 Bush St.
Items stored in the depot basement were moved there last week; the rest of the artwork, gift shop items, computers, files and other office materials are in the process of being moved there.
The river is expected to reach the 14-foot flood stage in Red Wing sometime today, but that level causes little impact on the community. Major flooding begins at 16 feet.
The Depot Gallery, 418 Levee St., will flood if the river reaches 18.998 feet, although water can get into the basement at a lower level.
The National Weather Service has predicted a crest as high as 18.5 feet in early April. But officials warned that there's about a 50 percent chance the crest will be 20 feet or higher. The longtime record is 20.7 feet, reached in 1965.
Cold weather and snow have slowed the river's rise and may result in a lower crest.
But with the weather so unpredictable and the crest so uncertain this spring, the arts association is taking no chances.
"It almost seems certain that we have to go," RWAA arts director Dan Guida said on Wednesday, hauling out boxes to begin packing up the gift shop.
Paul Siewert, owner of the building that had housed Sherwin-Williams, contacted the association and offered the space at no charge during the flood, Guida said.
With the basement contents secure at Noah's Art, he anticipated he'd have until April 1 to decide the next step. But weather conditions accelerated the timeline.
On Wednesday he started lining up volunteers to pack up the gift gallery for the move up the hill. The gift shop walls are covered with paintings and photographs, shelves are laden with ceramics and glass, display cases are filled with jewelry, plus there are racks of books, art cards, textiles and more.
Guida also notified teachers to pick up the student artwork currently on display; and scheduled Qwest to come Monday morning and move the telephone service.
"The office is the most difficult part," he said, because of the computers.
He hopes to have phones working again later Monday, and the gift shop and office all set up at the temporary location by the end of next week.
Three events scheduled at the depot during April will be affected, Guida said - an April 22 Earth Day celebration with birdhouse decorating, which likely will be canceled, and two new exhibits that are scheduled to open April 29.
One, featuring hand-blown glass by regional artists, probably will be moved to Noah's Art. The other, a display of casein landscape paintings by Red Wing artist Len Guggenberger, likely will be postponed until the depot reopens.
The historic depot's other tenant, the Red Wing Visitors and Convention Bureau, will remain open as long as possible in order to continue serving Amtrak customers while the trains are still running, according to Kathy Silverthorn.
"I'm not leaving until they turn out the lights," she said.
If power to the building is shut off, the bureau is scheduled to move into the lower level of the St. James Hotel, provided it also stays dry.