Heavy rains cause damage in Minnesota

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Farm Forum

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — More waves of heavy rain and severe storms rumbled into Minnesota on Monday on top of damaging storms that drenched the state over the weekend, causing Gov. Mark Dayton to cancel a planned visit to view flood damage in the southwest corner of the state.

Weekend storms dumped as much as 4 inches of rain at Luverne in the southwest corner of Minnesota and over 5 inches in some areas near International Falls on the state’s northern border, and they packed wind gusts as high as 68 mph at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

Severe thunderstorms popped up again in southwestern Minnesota on Monday afternoon, and the National Weather Service said areas to the north were at risk as well, including the Twin Cities area.

Dayton had planned to visit Luverne and Edgerton on Monday afternoon before he canceled his trip. Instead, his office said he planned to speak with local officials via telephone conference call, and planned to use a previously scheduled trip to the region to meet with local officials Friday about storm damage and recovery efforts. He also announced plans to travel north to International Falls on Tuesday morning to meet with local officials and assess flood damage in Koochiching County.

More sandbagging was planned Monday in the International Falls area to build up dikes protecting homes from rising waters on Rainy Lake and the Rainy River. U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, who represents the area, canceled two appearances on his schedule so he could travel to International Falls and meet with local officials and volunteers. Residents had filled 50,000 sandbags as of Sunday.

“It was 4 inches from the top of what they had bagged and they’re expecting it to rise at least a foot yet by the time all the runoff is done,” said Koochiching County sheriff’s dispatcher Rich Rud.

The high water has left many residents’ docks under water, as well as docks and boat launches at Voyageurs National Park. Rud said no damage assessments have been done yet. Highway 11 west of International Falls remains closed due to flooding.

Heavy rains over the weekend aggravated lake and river levels that were already swollen with spring snowmelt. Koochiching County Sheriff Brian Jespersen said the National Weather Service reported over 2.5 inches of rain fell in the area, but he said some residents had gauges registering over 5 inches.

Only a wall of sandbags was holding back the water from Ashley Belanger’s home about 15 miles west of International Falls, along the Rainy River. Belanger said it was a sight she couldn’t imagine.

“I never thought it would get to the house, I never thought we wouldn’t have a yard, or we’d have to evacuate the house,” Belanger told WDIO-TV.

International Falls is about 300 miles north of Minneapolis.

In southwestern Minnesota, officials closed all four lanes of Interstate 90 from Luverne to the South Dakota border for several hours Sunday after nearly 4 feet of water covered the freeway, but the interstate was open on Monday. A flash flood also washed out a dam spillway at Blue Mounds State Park north of Luverne, draining the park’s swimming pond.

Rock County’s emergency management director, Kyle Oldre, said about 40 percent of Luverne residents had some sort of water damage from overflow on the Rock River.

“Sump pumps can’t keep up,” Rock County Sheriff Evan Verbrugge told the Star Tribune. “Some residents have had sewage in the basement and water 2-3 inches to 2-3 feet.”

The sheriff said some parts of his county received “close to 7 inches of rain” over the weekend.

The water took over some city streets, and the basement of Richard May’s home.

“My son, he brought a farm pump here and we put it down the sewage drain. It’s running the water out now but the damage has already been done,” May told KELO-TV.

Luverne is about 200 miles southwest of Minneapolis.