Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Ongoing stories of flood recovery in Hammond, Jarrett and Zumbro Falls January 5, 2011

THREE MONTHS AGO I met four strong women from Wabasha County.

They had survived devastating late September floods that ravaged their communities and left two of them homeless.

Since then, I’ve kept in contact with one of those survivors, Katie Shones of tiny Hammond. The floodwaters of the Zumbro River stopped within feet of her front door. Now, that might be enough for Katie to breathe a sigh of relief and continue on with her life. But not Katie. She cares about her hamlet of Hammond and the residents she considers family.


A flood-damaged home and garage in Hammond, along the same street where Katie Shones and her family live. I took this photo only 2 1/2 weeks after the late September flood devastated the area.

I CARE, TOO, and I’ve promised Katie that I will continue telling the story of this region. In the always changing world of natural disasters, we quickly forget about a flood or an earthquake or a tornado as they all blend seamlessly together. That may sound harsh, but I know it is honest reality.

Katie e-mailed a few days ago, after I selected eight posts on the September flooding as my personal favorite Minnesota Prairie Roots stories for 2010.

In her message, Katie updated me on the recovery situation in Hammond and neighboring Zumbro Falls and Jarrett.

First, she tells me that her brother and his wife, whose main street Zumbro Falls home had water almost up to the first floor ceiling, have purchased a home “way high up on the hill” two miles south of Zumbro Falls. Did you catch that “way high up on the hill” part?

Her dear friend and family, who were living in a hotel and making mortgage payments on an uninhabitable residence, returned to their Hammond home the day after Christmas. “They are so grateful to be back,” Katie writes.

Another resident has moved into a new trailer house on her lot in Hammond. Some 80 percent of the homes and most of the businesses in the community of 230 were flooded.

Katie’s mother-in-law is still shuttling between family members’ homes and hasn’t decided what she will do. Her home of 53 years, two miles down river from Jarrett, had floodwaters flowing out of first floor windows.

Susie Shones, whom I interviewed and who is married to Katie’s husband’s cousin, is now temporarily renting a trailer home above Jarrett. Six feet of floodwaters forced Susie and her husband out of their first Jarrett rental house. Ironically, says Katie, the limestone bluffs surrounding Hammond and Jarrett are among the highest elevation points in Wabasha County.

Businesses along the street where Katie lives are beginning to recover. The bank has reopened. The bar is expected to reopen in March. And the restaurant owner is hard at work remodeling his building.


Minnwest Bank in Hammond, by Katie's home, has reopened.

The partially-gutted restaurant interior, photographed on October 10, 2010, is now being renovated.

“OTHER THAN THAT, not much happening in Hammond and the surrounding area due to the weather,” Katie writes. “Hammond continues to look like a ghost town. Every other street light is shut off and the majority of the homes are dark. I keep expecting to see coyotes roaming the streets……”

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling