Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Preparing for the floods, which haven’t arrived, yet, anyway March 25, 2011

Xcel Energy sandbagged its electrical substation near the Straight River in preparation for spring flooding. See the green, fenced enclosures next to the building. Last fall this substation flooded during a flash flood.

UNLESS THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE changes its forecast, a flood warning that covers Rice County expires at 3:30 p.m. Friday.

That’s good news for Faribault, where residents and officials have been nervously watching the rising, and now receding, Cannon and Straight Rivers that run through town.

Six months ago, those rivers rushed over their banks during a September flash flood, threatening homes and businesses and actually flooding some. Sewage also backed up in to homes and the city’s wastewater treatment plant was compromised. Because of the sudden nature of that flood, my community was not fully prepared.

This spring, though, following a winter of heavy snowfall and then a quick snow melt, officials had emergency plans in place to deal with possible flooding. They had even recruited students to fill sandbags, stockpiled at a local park for residential use.

They were ready. Ready is good.

Better to be safe than sorry.

Here’s a look at some river and preparedness scenes I shot near the Cannon and Straight Rivers Wednesday evening.

If we don’t get another major storm—rain or snow— and the weather stays cold, slowing the snow melt, I think we should be OK here in Faribault, meaning no need to worry about flooding.

But then that can change on a dime, and I’ve heard predictions of another possible river crest next week.

And so we wait…prepared.

Student volunteers and others filled sandbags, available to residents who needed them. These were stockpiled at South Alexander Park by the Cannon River when I shot this image Wednesday evening.

River waters rise close to Faribault Foods. Last fall floodwaters reached as far as the overhead doors.

The Straight River encroaches on Faribault's Water Reclamation Plant, which now appears "safe" from floodwaters.

A sandbagged utility area along the Straight River by the viaduct and Teepee Tonka Park on Faribault's east side.

CLICK HERE to view images from last September’s flash flood in Faribault, comparing the situation then to today. River levels are much lower than six months ago.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Flood updates from southern Minnesota March 23, 2011

AS YOU WOULD EXPECT, Minnesotans are keeping a close watch on rising rivers, creeks and streams as rain and snow continue to fall across much of our state.

Here in Faribault, sandbagging has begun at the wastewater treatment plant, which flooded during last September’s flash flood. Sandbags have been filled and are available to property owners. The city has an emergency plan in place to deal with any flooding.

Faribault officials are working to protect the city's water reclamation plant which sits along the Straight River and which was flooded in a September 2010 flood. This photo is from September 2010.

Thankfully, the precipitation—rain, sleet and then snow overnight—have stopped in Faribault.

Further to the south, I’ve heard from Katie Shones of Hammond, a Wabasha County village nestled along the Zumbro River. Last September Hammond and nearby Zumbro Falls were devastated by the same flash flood that occurred in Faribault.

Katie updated me just this afternoon on the situation in Hammond. “So far, no sandbagging in the area,” Katie writes. “We are under a flood warning in Wabasha County, just as much of southern Minnesota. The Zumbro is high, but it is still contained in its banks. People are watching the river closely as you can well imagine.”

Looking down on Hammond during the September 2010 flash flood. Photo courtesy of Hammond residents Micheal Mann and Tina Marlowe.

Sadly, yesterday the spring floods claimed the life of a Minnesota Department of Transportation worker who was swept away by floodwaters after his backhoe tipped into Seven Mile Creek, which feeds into the Minnesota River. The accident happened between Mankato and St. Peter along U.S. Highway 169 when Michael Struck 39, of Cleveland, was attempting to clean out flood debris, according to an article in The Free Press, Mankato. His body was found today in Seven Mile Creek County Park.

Please be careful out there, and if you have any reports you would like to share about flood preparedness, flooding or other weather in your area of Minnesota, please submit a comment.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Flooding in Faribault, day two September 24, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 10:11 AM
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The American Legion and Heritage Place businesses, a block from downtown, are surrounded by flood waters.

WE ARE IN TO DAY TWO OF FLOODING here in Faribault, where an emergency was declared last evening by Mayor John Jasinski.

The Cannon and Straight rivers have overflowed their banks in areas. Crews have been sandbagging some homes and businesses. Several streets are closed, including a portion of Second Avenue N.W. where the road crosses the Cannon River. This is a main arterial route through the city.  An electrical substation is flooded. The wastewater treatment plant is threatened.

We’ve been instructed to limit water usage and to avoid unnecessary travel around town.

In the 28 years I’ve lived in the Faribault area, I have never seen the rivers this high.

Except for a two-hour power outage this morning, my family remains unaffected. Our home lies several blocks from the Straight River, but we have no reason to worry.

Here are some photos I shot shortly after 7 this morning.

Crews have sandbagged Boston's Restaurant along Minnesota Highway 60. The parking lot is under water.

Another image of Boston's, a popular Faribault restaurant near the Straight River.

Motorists pulled off Minnesota Highway 60 near the viaduct to photograph floodwaters and Boston's.

Water pooled in a low area near the viaduct and into Boston's parking lot.

An electrical substation and Lockerby Sheet Metal near the Straight River are surrounded by floodwaters.

Just another shot of the flooding around Lockerby.

Heritage Place businesses are surrounded by water.

Flooding at the American Legion, which sits at the bottom of a hill and not far from the Straight River.

Numerous roads around Faribault are closed like this one by the Legion.

© Copyright 2010 Audrey Kletscher Helbling