IF YOU LIVE along a river in Minnesota, are you concerned about spring flooding?
While predictions for significant, wide-spread flooding in our state focus primarily on those living along the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers, folks in other riverside communities are worried too.
Take the residents of Hammond, a southeastern Minnesota town of 230 which sits along the banks of the Zumbro River. Eighty percent of the houses and most of the businesses there were flooded during a late September 2010 flash flood. Many residents still are not back in their homes.
I visited Hammond and nearby flood-ravaged Zumbro Falls only weeks after that flood and talked to several locals, including Katie Shones. The Zumbro River flooded across park land, a highway and Main Street before lapping at the door of Katie’s family’s Hammond home.
Katie Shones and her family live in this house, photographed during the September 2010 flood. Her house was spared, by mere feet. Other houses and businesses along her street were flooded by the Zumbro River.
Her friend, Tina Marlowe, wasn’t as fortunate. The home where Tina lives with her fiancé Micheal; her 7 and 16-year-old children; and future in-laws, Bob and Cathy, was flooded with the basement entirely engulfed in water and 3 – 4 inches of water on the main level. The house is elevated approximately three feet above the ground.
Tina and her family moved back into their home right after Christmas.
I emailed Tina and Katie recently with these questions:
Are you concerned about possible spring flooding? How about your community? Have you, or are you going to, purchase flood insurance? Are you making any special preparations for possible flooding?
Their answers differ somewhat, probably based on personal experience more than anything. Yet, concern is woven into each of their responses, enough concern so that they are planning for the possibility of spring flooding.
Katie tells me: “Lots of people are talking about the possibility of another flood, but kind of have the devil may care attitude. If it is going to flood, there is not much one can do about it. Natural disasters happen all the time.”
Main Street Hammond at the height of the September 2010 flood. Water was rushing over the sidewalk and into the basement of the gray house via the cellar doors. Katie Shones' house is only two lots away from the gray house.
Katie’s not worried about her home flooding. Her house isn’t even in the 500-year flood zone and she hasn’t purchased flood insurance. Yet, if the water starts to rise like last fall, she and her husband will haul sand and gravel from local quarries and build a bank in front of their home to protect it.
Her feelings about spring flooding are mixed, though, she says, because of all the snow. “If the ground isn’t frozen, hopefully most will drain into the soil and not reach the river. If the snow melts at a normal pace, I really don’t think we have much to worry about.”
Then she adds this kicker: “I think the Rochester flood control project on the Zumbro River had a huge role to play in this fall’s flood.”
I know nothing of Rochester’s flood control project, but if Katie is thinking this, then I bet other residents are too.
Katie’s friend Tina already has a plan in place for spring flooding and her future father-in-law is checking into flood insurance. “I am very concerned,” she says.
“Mike and I are making a plan,” she shares. “Activation Stage in Zumbro Falls is 15 feet and flood stage is 18 feet. So if the river rises to 15 feet and the crest is predicted to be over 20, Mike and I will be pulling all of our stuff out of the basement and main level and will take it up to the second floor. Then we will pre-pack the car, and have our vehicles moved to higher ground before we get the evacuation call.
Since my father-in-law is now acting mayor, I’m sure that Mike and I would be helping out with door-to-door notifications if in fact there is an evacuation ordered. It is still undetermined what would happen if the house sustains damage again.”
Tina has one more worry related to possible spring flooding. She is getting married and her wedding will be at Municipal Beach Park in Wabasha with the reception at a riverside restaurant there. “I am very, very concerned about the Mississippi flooding…my back-up plan was the park in Hammond. I am holding my breath and doing a lot of praying!!!!!”
© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling
Photos by Gene Reckmann and courtesy of Katie Shones