The Free Press, Mankato, MN

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Local News

September 24, 2010

Flooding closing roads, schools

MANKATO — Connie Belgard stood in her rain-wracked driveway and succinctly rued the day.

“This sucks,” the Truman resident said as a well-worked sump pump did likewise in her flooded basement.

The Martin County town of 1,200 residents appears to have “won” Thursday’s area rainstorm lottery with unofficial precipitation amounts of up to 13 inches in and around the city.

A sodden and slow-moving weather front deluged areas throughout southern Minnesota, flooding streets, closing highways and schools and wreaking havoc with municipal storm and sewer systems.

Areas south and west of Mankato bore the brunt, with reported rainfalls by mid-afternoon Thursday of 5 inches in Blue Earth, 6.5 inches in Winnebago, 8.75 inches in St. James and more than 10 inches in Amboy.

The Mankato community had received 4.5 inches by 3 p.m. Thursday, KEYC-TV meteorologist Mark Tarello said.

He attributed the event to a huge storm mass emanating from the Gulf of Mexico and a “stuck in a rut” front that was staying put over the region.

In Truman it was all hands on deck in dealing with flooding that infiltrated 80 to 90 percent of basements and had emergency responders working nonstop.

It began raining in Truman about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, followed by heavy hail about 8:30 p.m.

“Our new squad car looks like a golf ball now,” second assistant fire chief John Zaharia said outside Martin County’s mobile command center truck that was dispatched to Truman.

At 11 p.m. Wednesday fire department personnel and other responders went door to door shutting of gas in homes, many of which had basements  flooded to the ceilings.

Truman High School closed to keep unnecessary pressure off the city’s sewer system (schools in Mapleton and Wells did likewise), and residents were asked not to flush toilets or use more water than needed.

 Trucked-in portable toilets lined a downtown street and sandbagging was done around apartment complexes for the elderly.

Longtime Truman residents said it was the worst in-city flooding they’d ever seen, and Belgard’s husband Elliot was doing double duty, tending to his flooded basement and to city needs as a volunteer firefighter.

Elliot Belgard said water began coming into his basement at 11:15 p.m. Wednesday and he put two sump pumps to work.

“But at 2 a.m. I just gave up.”

Zaharia said sump-pumping basement water into streets was futile because of the city’s overtaxed storm sewers.

“It just runs back in faster than you can pump it out,” he said.

 In another part of town Courtney and Tim Luniewski were greeted Thursday by a foot of basement water that kept rising despite the efforts of a sump pump.

City workers sand-bagged around the Luniewskis’ and their neighbor’s homes but to little avail.

“We had a little trickle when we had all that rain before (during a  heavy June storm), but nothing like this,” she said. “I’m a little overwhelmed, a little bit of anxiety.”

In St. James a basement foundation caved in due to saturated soil and most streets in town were closed.

Reportedly, a driver was swept off a county road and into a ditch near St. James and was found sitting atop his car. A sheriff’s deputy tossed him a life vest and the man navigated water about 4 feet deep to safety.

The rising Minnesota River stood at 16.5 feet Thursday afternoon. Flood stage is 22 feet and that could be reached this weekend, Tarello said.

The weather front was expected to exit to the east Thursday, making for a dry day today. Tarello said a shower or two may be on tap Saturday but next week looks to be sunny and dry.

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