Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

On the road: A look at Redwood County flooding & snow pack March 24, 2019

Westbound just outside of Redwood Falls along Minnesota State Highway 19 late Saturday morning.


SNOW LAYERS farm fields.


Along Minnesota State Highway 19 between Redwood Falls and the Belview corner.


Massive snow piles still mark farm sites, this one along Minnesota State Highway 19 near the Belview corner.


A scene along Minnesota State Highway 19 near the Belview corner appears more winter-like than spring.


In the shade of yards and groves and northern hillsides, snow banks remain, reminders of a long Minnesota winter not yet over.


In many spots along Minnesota State Highway 19 between Redwood Falls and the Belview corner, snow pushed off the highway (some up to 100 feet from the roadway) remains.


Snow shoved from a once-drifted Minnesota State Highway 19 appears like wind-sculpted waves frozen in place just west of Redwood Falls.


A sign on the west edge of Redwood Falls along Minnesota State Highway 19 advises motorists to check the Minnesota Department of Transportation website for road closures.


In Redwood, the Redwood River appears mostly iced-over.


Flooding along Minnesota State Highway 19 between Redwood Falls and the Delhi corner.


But outside of town, snow melt floods fields, settles in low-lying areas. Frozen tile and frozen ground allow no outlet for all that water. Farm sites seem temporary lakeside properties.


A drainage ditch near the intersection of Brown County Road 29 and Minnesota State Highway 67 southeast of Morgan.


Ditches brim with water.


East of Courtland along U.S. Highway 14, fields are mostly bare of snow.


Between Morgan and Gilfillan, snow cover and flooding increase.


Southeast of Redwood Falls.


A survey of the countryside while driving from Faribault to Belview and back Saturday presents a perspective on the flooding and potential flooding in southern Minnesota. Not until Randy and I drove northwest out of Morgan did we begin to really notice the difference. Our observations of significant remaining snow pack and already ponding water visually confirms the reason for a flood warning in my native Redwood County.


Flooded farm field near Delhi.


Just east of Belview.


East of Delhi, a closure on the Scenic Byway road.


There’s a lot of snow yet to melt, especially west of Redwood Falls. That water must go somewhere since it can’t soak into the frozen soil. And that somewhere is likely into the Redwood River, which feeds into the Minnesota River, which feeds into the Mississippi River. What happens in rural southwestern Minnesota will eventually affect the Twin Cities metro.


Near Delhi.


Temps and precipitation will factor into the flooding equation, too, as winter transitions into spring. I will tell you that Redwood County, on Saturday, seemed still stuck in the final days of winter.

© Copyright 2019 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


As rain and snow fall, the flood threat rises in Minnesota March 22, 2011

The view from my front window at 8 a.m. today as sleet pelted Faribault.

I AWOKE THIS MORNING to a world of gray and white and sleet pelting in sheets against the windows.

So much for spring…

When I plucked the The Faribault Daily News from the front steps, shook off the water droplets soaking the paper’s plastic sleeve, removed and opened the paper, I read this headline: STILL RISING—National Weather Service declares flood warning for Rice County as Straight River closes in on 10 feet.

And so the spring flood season has begun here in Minnesota with road closures in the Henderson area southwest of the Twin Cities, between Windom and Fulda in southwestern Minnesota and probably other places of which I am unaware.

Here in Faribault, officials are keeping a close eye on the rising Straight and Cannon Rivers. Sandbags are filled and plans are in place to put them in place should the need arise. Of major concern is the riverside wastewater treatment plant which was flooded during a flash flood last September. During that flood six months ago, many homes and some businesses were inundated with floodwaters. A local riverside park, which often floods in the spring, was also under feet of water.

Upon checking the National Weather Service Twin Cities, MN., website map, I see most of the southern half of Minnesota falls under a flood warning.

For the north, winter storm and blizzard warnings have been issued. The last I heard, several inches of snow are expected to fall in my area sometime today and/or into tomorrow.

A car passes by my home at 8 a.m. as heavy sleet fell. Sleet also pelted Faribault during the night.

Rain continues to fall here as we approach the noon hour with temperatures hovering several degrees above freezing.

Personally, I’ve been affected by this wet weather with some minor water seeping into a corner of the basement—enough to soak up, move belongings and turn on the fans. It’s a hassle, but certainly nothing compared to the issues some folks will face as the snow and rain fall and the rivers rise.

PLEASE SUBMIT a comment with any information you have about rising rivers/creeks/streams and/or flooding in your area of Minnesota. I would like to share your stories with Minnesota Prairie Roots readers.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Worries about spring flooding along the Zumbro River February 8, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 11:09 AM
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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