Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

When torrential rains cause major flooding in my home region of southwestern Minnesota July 4, 2018

Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY, my friends. I hope this finds you celebrating your freedom in a fun way.


The Redwood River, flooded over its banks, along Redwood County Road 10 heading south out of Vesta earlier this spring. That’s my home farm in the distance. I expect the flooding is much worse now. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


In my home region of southwestern Minnesota, where I was supposed to be yesterday and today with extended family, residents are cleaning up after heavy rainfall flooded the region. Flash flooding resulted in water in basements (and higher), road wash-outs and closures, mudslides, swamped farm fields, overflowing rivers and more. That includes in my home county of Redwood. And the communities of Wabasso (where I graduated from high school) and Vesta (my hometown).

After a flurry of texts between me and my five siblings and lots of online searching yesterday, Randy and I decided not to risk the trip into the flooded region. Although I second-guessed our decision multiple times, it was the right one. This morning floodwaters flowed across a section of US highway 14 east of Lamberton, our route to and from my middle brother’s rural acreage just north of that small town. Likewise I expect the rising Cottonwood River has flooded a county road within a mile of our destination.

Some roads have collapsed in Redwood and Renville counties. I don’t trust the structural integrity of any road covered with water. The Redwood County Sheriff’s Department issued this statement on Facebook early yesterday morning:

We have had numerous (reports) of water covering the roadways. Please DO NOT drive on any roadway that has water running over it. MN DOT and Redwood County highway departments are doing the best they can do get these roads blocked off to warn motorists.


A combine similar to this was moved from a Tracy dealership onto Highway 14. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


One of the most creative road blocks happened in Tracy where crews parked a massive John Deere combine across Highway 14 to keep traffic off the flooded roadway.


This road-side sculpture welcomes travelers to Wabasso. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.


In Wabasso, which got 11 inches of rain within 12 hours, a resident noted on social media that the white rabbit was safe from floodwaters. He was referencing an over-sized rabbit sculpture along State Highway 68. Wabasso means “white rabbit” and is the local school mascot.

It’s good to find humor in a difficult situation, in an area where residents endured another round of rain this Fourth of July morning.

To those who live in my native southwestern Minnesota (and that includes many family and friends), I am sorry you are experiencing this major flooding. Please be safe.

© Copyright 2018 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


27 Responses to “When torrential rains cause major flooding in my home region of southwestern Minnesota”

  1. treadlemusic Says:

    I am so sorry for those folks (your family) who are faced with such clean-up, etc, while, also, experiencing one of the hottest summers (on record?) in a long time. Decisions that choose the more cautious direction are hard to make when family is involved. May your day be blessed……..we are INdoors with the A/C and enjoying it with thankfulness. Hugs…………….

    • Yes. Randy and I and our eldest daughter and her family were the only ones who chose the cautious route and did’t attend the gathering. Some didn’t have far to drive. Part of the reason we wanted to go was to visit my mom in the nursing home. But based on the info we had and my knowledge of rivers and geography in that region, we likely would have needed to backtrack long distances to get from Point A to Point B. A point of frustration for me was the lack of online info on county road closures. I expect, though, that resources were stretched with no one available to post that info. And with this being the holiday, local media in that area provided little to no ongoing/any coverage.

      • treadlemusic Says:

        Yes….just checked the 511 map and there’s no help there!!! (other than Hwy 14) I’m sorry you weren’t able to visit your mom. This has been quite the Spring/Summer thus far. We have a line of storms headed our way (sun is still blistering but the thunder is booming in the distance!!!). Tom just picked a few more cherries and the raspberries are abundant! Hugs………

      • The booming thunder and rain stalled here for about an hour. So, yup, headed your way.

  2. Murphy's Law Says:

    I can’t imagine the fear that envelops people when they are caught up in Mother Nature’s wrath. I hope everyone is safe and unhurt and that any damage suffered is minimal. I have no doubt you were worried for your loved ones, but I’m glad you opted to stay home. Difficult but wise decision Audrey.

    Whenever you are able to get together with your family again, it will be that much sweeter.
    🔹 Ginger 🔹

    • The coming days will reveal the extent of damages to homes, businesses, crops, roads, infrastructures… As far as I know, there have been no injuries or deaths, although a teen drove onto a county road that caved under his car. His seatbelt and airbag saved his life.

  3. Brenda R Says:

    I watched the rain on radar with dread as it stayed & dumped on that area of southwestern Minnesota. While glad we weren’t getting hardly any rain for a change, I couldn’t help but think of the people living there knowing what they would be dealing with! To think some people thought we would have a drought this summer!! The weeds and grass just keep on growing!! Too bad you missed your family getting together! Have a good 4th!!

  4. Judy M Says:

    Happy 4th of July. I am sorry you couldn’t go to see your family and your mother, very sorry there is so much rain causing flooding. Take care.

  5. Beth Ann Says:

    Flooding is no fun and Mason City has been hit pretty hard again this year. We have had tons of rain but fortunately we live at 3500 feet and on a lake so no worries for our house but we have had to navigate all spring around washed out roads and downed trees because of storms. Mother Nature can be brutal sometimes. It will all pass with time but the clean up and stress of going through this type of event is harrowing. Prayers for all.

  6. valeriebollinger Says:

    I like the white rabbit!
    I’m sorry you couldn’t go to be at your family gathering but it was fun to see you at North Morristown.

  7. Almost Iowa Says:

    For the first time in recent memory, the big July 4th parade in Blooming Prairie was canceled because of the threat of a thunder storm. It was nothing like what happened out west but it has been a rough year for weather.

  8. Jackie Says:

    So sorry your 4th of July plans were thwarted by Mother Nature. Glad you stayed home…good decision by the sounds of it. Lots of flooding south of here for the last week or so too….ugh!

  9. sidetrackken Says:

    The “swayback” bridge in Redwood Falls’ park: https://www.facebook.com/groups/246863672003244/?fref=nf

  10. Missy's Crafty Mess Says:

    The weather has been extreme all year. Lots of rain and heat.

  11. Lucy had honor band in Wabasso in May!

  12. Bella Says:

    what extreme weather we have been faced with and flooding adds another scary dimension good plan to stay in your area this past 4th. Prayers to those who are faced with flooding and tough decisions to make.

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