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

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Thankful he’s back in Fargo & not stranded along I-94 March 18, 2013

FOX 9 news at 8 a.m. shows just how bad the current weather situation is in Minnesota.

FOX 9 news at 8 a.m. shows just how bad the weather situation is in Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin. Fargo is located above the B in “Blowing.” Faribault lies 300 miles to the south and east along Interstate 35, in the eastern edge of the blizzard warning.

ALREADY SATURDAY AFTERNOON his dad and I were urging him to call Brittany, his ride back to North Dakota State University.

“You need to leave early on Sunday,” we suggested to our 19-year-old. We’d heard the weather forecast for snow and strong winds, creating blizzard conditions. “If you don’t, you’ll end up stranded in some town along I-94 because they’ve closed the interstate.”

He listened. Brittany listened. They left at 10 a.m. Sunday, picking up three other NDSU students en route, arriving six hours later in Fargo. They beat the snow and the wind, if you can ever beat the wind in North Dakota. Many times our son has declared, “It’s a good day in Fargo when the wind doesn’t blow.”

FOX 9 news at 8 a.m. today lists the I-94 and other western Minnesota road closures.

FOX 9 news at 8 a.m. today lists the I-94 and other western Minnesota road closures.

This morning I-94 between Alexandria and Fargo is closed as persistent wind gusts of 40-50 mph sweep through the region creating those white-out conditions, making travel impossible. Along other sections of that interstate, especially in the Stearns County area, the Minnesota Department of Transportation has tagged travel as hazardous.

This morning NDSU is closed. I expect the son is sleeping in.

Even though I’d love to have him home for an extra day of spring break, I’m relieved that my boy is tucked safe inside Johnson Hall. Better there than 300 miles away in Faribault and all of us worrying about how he would make it back to Fargo for classes tomorrow.

You see, always at the back of my mind niggles the memory of a horrific crash along icy I-94 west of Alexandria on February 20, 2012, which killed four young women from Minnesota, all students at NDSU.

TELL ME ABOUT weather and travel in your area. How bad is it out there?

© Text copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Flooding in Faribault September 23, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 9:42 PM
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Sometime between 6 - 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Second Avenue N.W. in Faribault, where it crosses the Cannon River, was closed. Two dams are located next to this stretch of now flooded roadway.

“AREN’T YOU GLAD it isn’t snow?” my husband asks as I review his summary of rain gauge totals from our backyard in southern Faribault:

  • 2.7 inches from 6 p.m. Sept. 22 to 8 a.m. Sept. 23
  • 1.6 inches from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. Sept. 23
  • Plus whatever rain fell before 6 p.m. Sept. 22, an estimated 1 – 1 ½ inches

We are swimming in water here and the rain continues to fall.

Earlier this evening we toured the town—yes, we were gawkers—and found swollen rivers and closed roads. Four-lane Second Avenue N.W., as it crosses the Cannon River, was flooded with four inches of water and down to two lanes when Randy drove across the bridge around 6 p.m. A half hour later, officials had closed the street.

Near the blocked road and behind the former Faribo Woolen Mill, we met a homeowner in hip waders waiting for the city to deliver sandbags to his riverside home. His property hadn’t flooded yet, but he was worried. He’s lived there since 1985 and never seen the river so high, he says.

Nor have we. Randy has lived here for 32 years. I’ve been here for 28.

Standing atop a bridge on the north end of Faribault, I snapped images of the rushing Straight River. Even from the safety of the road, I felt unsettled, watching as the muddy waters churned and roiled and rushed away, edging away from the constraints of the rain-logged banks.

The rain is expected to continue into Friday.

A view of the raging Straight River from a bridge on the north end of Faribault.

Second Avenue N.W., which crosses the Cannon River, was blocked at Faribault Foods.

The Straight River spilled over its banks into a parking lot and loading dock area at Faribault Foods.

The Cannon River overflowed its banks behind the former Faribo Woolen Mill. Next door, to the left in this photo, a homeowner awaited sandbags to protect his home.

In South Alexander Park, the Cannon River spilled onto park land.

Along Ravine Street, crews kept a watchful eye on the Straight River.

Flood waters caused the closing of a portion of Heritage Place at Heritage Park.

Officials closed flooded TeePee Tonka Park near the Straight River viaduct in the central part of Faribault.

The Straight River on the north end of Faribault continues to rise.

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Most of these photos were taken through the windows of a car in fading daylight.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling