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Prison inmates prepare Minnesota for potentially record-breaking floods

Prison inmates are doing battle with old man river.

Prison inmates are doing battle with old man river.

After record-breaking snowfalls all winter, warmer weather has riverside communities scrambling to prepare for some very serious flooding. St. Paul officials are predicting as many as 2,200 people could be forced to evacuate downtown areas should the river reach worst-case-scenario heights of 26.4 feet.

Who's going to save the day?

Never fear -- prison inmates are here.

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Today, minimum security inmates at Stillwater Correctional Facility filled sandbags out in the prison parking lot. They started yesterday and at last count were up to 400. The bags are heading for Bayport at the city's request.

Minnesota Department of Corrections spokesman John Schadl says any community who needs the extra help can put in a request, as Bayport did. The inmates fill sandbags instead of doing their normal work duties inside the prison and are paid 50 cents an hour. If needed, cities can even request the inmates come out and help stack them.

"The flooding -- hopefully it doesn't intensify, but if it does we'll take more request," says Schadl.

Flood walls are already going up in Stillwater and at the MSP airport, and there's buzz this year's flooding could be worse than an infamous 1965 flood. Not a time to look a gift volunteer in the mouth.