CREST WATCH: Mississippi River set for 7th highest crest - KMSP-TV

CREST WATCH: Mississippi River set for 7th highest crest

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) -

Water levels along the Mississippi River in St. Paul are expected to reach the crest on Thursday night, but in the interim, city and county officials say folks should stay away from the raging waters.

MORE: MnDOT warns of river risks

Years ago, the City of St. Paul moved the homes in the flood plain so they wouldn't be affected by events like this year's flood -- but that's not stopping people from coming to look at what Mother Nature can do. Bob Beck brought his grandsons, Diego and Eddie, to the shores to get a glimpse of a once-in-a-generation flood.

"It's truly amazing," Beck said. "You don't think of the river spreading out like this and covering things up. So often, we don't even think of the river being by us at all, and now we know it is."

Music was in the air in downtown St. Paul on Thursday, but the sound of smooth jazz wasn't the only thing going with the flow in the state's capital city. The mighty Mississippi River is expected to hit 20.5 feet -- about 6 feet above flood stage -- at its peak, covering low-lying parks and roads in the process.

Organizers of the Taste of Minnesota already announced they will move this year's event to Waconia because Harriet Island is underwater. Several weddings have also been forced to find new locations. Luckily, however, most of St. Paul is on higher ground.

With water moving at 114,000 cubic feet per second, the chief river of the largest drainage system in North America is now moving faster than Niagara Falls, and city leaders warn spectators to stay away from the water because it is more dangerous than it looks on the surface.

"It's really deceiving," Rick Larkin said. "When you only have a few inches of water and the water is moving that quickly, the force of the water can knock you off your feet."

Further downstream, Ronald Benson is flooded with memories of 1965, when the Mississippi River set a record crest of 26 feet.

"I don't remember the actual month of the 65 one, but we had a bunch of ice flow -- chunks of ice along with the water," Benson remembered. "We didn't see that this time."

Yet, even though he's seen more severe flooding, the majesty of Mother Nature still sweeps him away.

"It doesn't happen all the time," he said. "Makes you remember how awesome rivers are."

The city also had to move the 400 cars in its impound lot to the state fairgrounds due to the flooding. The lot will reopen on Friday morning so that people can start reclaiming their cars. Yet, more rain is expected over the weekend and although city leaders don't expect the river go to much higher, they do not expect it to go down for about a week.

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