Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A bride’s story: Come hell or high water July 10, 2011

“I TOLD HIM NO WAY IN HELL was I leaving my wedding dress behind,” Tina Marlowe Mann remembers.

And she didn’t. Nine months ago Tina defied a fireman’s order and saved her bridal gown. It was the last thing she brought out of her house during a 15-minute mandatory evacuation of flood-ravaged Hammond on Friday morning, September 24. When she exited her home, the fireman instructed her to park her 4-wheel drive Jeep on high ground, with the wedding dress inside, and walk out of the flooded town because the water had risen too high to drive out.

She refused and instead forged—with five adults, two children, a Rottweiler, two cats, a few clothes and that precious wedding dress—through water that reached the door panels and covered the exhaust pipes of her Jeep.

“We got stuck a couple times and I thought we might not make it out, but we did,” Tina recalls.

Come hell or high water, she would not allow the raging waters of the Zumbro River to snatch away her dream dress.

Two weeks ago yesterday, on June 25, Tina Marlowe married Micheal Mann at Beach Park in Wabasha wearing that rescued bridal gown. A reception followed at Slippery’s Bar and Grill on the Mississippi River.

Tina, on her June 25 wedding day, in the bridal gown she saved from a flash flood in Hammond in southeastern Minnesota last September.

As it did last fall, floodwaters once again threatened. “Ironically, this spring we spent a lot of time holding our breath, worried that Beach Park and Slippery’s might receive major damage from spring flooding,” Tina says. “For weeks we watched the hydrological reports from Wabasha with bated breath. We even made a couple trips down there just to monitor the situation with our own eyes—and we did a lot of praying.

“Then wouldn’t you know it that the week before the wedding, it rained every single day. A couple of those days the heavy rains took me right back to September…and I said to Mike, ‘Wouldn’t it be just crazy if we come home from Wabasha to find water in our house again?’”

Water from last fall’s flash flood filled their basement and rose several inches into the main level, displacing the family from their home for three months.

Tina and Micheal continued praying for the rain to stop as June 25 approached. Then on their wedding morning, the sun came out in Wabasha and, as the fog lifted from the Mississippi River valley, it looked to be a perfect day.

The weather forecast, however, called for afternoon showers. And the wedding was set for 4 p.m.

Within an hour of the ceremony, rain began falling. While Tina was slipping into her bridal gown at a Wabasha hotel, family and friends were moving everything from the decorated gazebo to the pavilion.

Tina and Mike

“Irony again prevailed because it rained from 3 until about 4:30, and then it stopped and the rest of the evening was picture perfect,” Tina says. “All of the bridal pictures were taken in the rain. Every person in my wedding party was affected by the flood in one way or another and here we were, standing in the pouring rain on the banks of the Mississippi River, having the time of our lives.

They say it is good luck to have rain on your wedding day because a ‘wet knot’ is much harder to untie. I truly feel blessed.”

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TINA, RAIN ALSO FELL on my wedding day in May of 1982. My husband and I have now been married for 29 years.

I expect that you and Micheal, with the challenges you’ve faced, already had a tightly-tied knot. Your positive attitude in the face of difficulties continues to impress me, as does your strength.

Congratulations on your marriage. May you and Mike live a long, happy and blessed life together.

Mike & Tina at sunset along the Mississippi River on their wedding day.

READERS: I F YOU HAVE NOT READ the six-part series of stories I posted in March about Tina’s experience during the September 2010 flash flood in Hammond, you’ll want to check it out now. Go to my archives and click on these dates: March 13 – 15 and March 17 – 19. Click here to read the first post, “Part I, Tina’s story, surviving the Hammond, Minnesota, flood.”

Also, consider contributing to Hammond’s efforts to rebuild city parks. Tina, recently-elected to the city council, is leading efforts to repair the flood-damaged parks. Click here to read a blog post about how you can help.

PHOTOS BY SHERWIN SAMANIEGO PHOTOGRAPHY of Rochester and courtesy of Tina Marlowe Mann.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling