Up to 10 inches of rain in Upper Midwest leave 2 dead, soggy mess
Two men use a boat to transport a pump and generator across the Waseca High School's parking lot to the flooded Community Ice Arena Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016 in Waseca, Minn. It's a soggy start to fall for several Midwestern states, where heavy rain has flooded homes, closed major highways, stranded motorists and derailed a train. (Pat Christman/The Free Press via AP)
By Associated Press
PUBLISHED: September 22, 2016 at 5:52 pm | UPDATED: September 23, 2016 at 12:20 pm
Several Midwestern states were a soggy mess Thursday after up to 10 inches of rain fell in parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa and triggered mudslides and flooding that caused two deaths.
Washed-out railroad tracks derailed a train in southwestern Wisconsin, where a mudslide destroyed a house and killed 53-year-old Michael McDonald inside. Crews built dams to protect a cheese cave and a woolen mill in southern Minnesota. And in northern Iowa, about 100 people were evacuated from their apartments. Main Street near Covered Bridge Park in Zumbrota, Minn., is blocked off Thursday morning, Sept. 22. 2016, following flooding, which was the result of 5 inches of rain. Heavy rain has flooded homes, closed major highways, stranded motorists and derailed a train in several Midwestern states. (Elizabeth Nida Obert/Post-Bulletin via AP)
The rain mostly moved through the states Wednesday evening and early Thursday, though another round was in the forecast for northern Iowa on Thursday night. Forecasters said the weekend could also bring more rain.
While much of the water began to recede or drain Thursday, its effects could be found throughout the area.
Mud pushed a home onto Wisconsin 35 in Vernon County on Thursday morning. It took search and rescue crews until the afternoon to find McDonald’s body, emergency management officials said.
In the same county, Joseph Menne, 79, attempted to drive through flood water on a road near his home. Investigators say he was in a pickup truck pulling a trailer that got stuck in six feet of water. The flood water eventually filled the pickup compartment. Menne was reported missing about 7 p.m. Thursday. His body was found about two hours later.
About 40 miles south in Crawford County, two BNSF Railway locomotives and five cars derailed. The crew wasn’t injured, but one of the fuel tanks ruptured, spilling about 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel — some into the Mississippi River, the railroad said. BNSF crews placed booms downstream to capture the fuel. Wisconsin emergency officials said 15 people who lived nearby were evacuated as a precaution.
Gov. Scott Walker declared a state of emergency for 13 western Wisconsin counties.
Walker said he’s instructing the Wisconsin National Guard and all state agencies to provide assistance to those affected by the disaster.
His declaration will help local governments pay for the costs of damage and cleanup to public infrastructure.
The covered counties are: Buffalo, Chippewa, Clark, Columbia, Crawford, Eau Claire, Jackson, La Crosse, Monroe, Richland, Sauk, Trempealeau and Vernon.
In Minnesota, the northern suburbs in the Twin Cities area saw up to 10 inches of rain. Basement and street flooding was widespread, authorities said.
Near downtown Minneapolis, police officers and other emergency responders plucked a man from the rain-swollen Mississippi River just below the Interstate 35W bridge. The rescue was recorded by a police officer’s body camera.
Sgt. Catherine Michal said the man, who is in his early 20s, was perilously close to being washed down the river Wednesday night until rescuers pulled him to safety. He was holding onto a rope when the first responders arrived.
A woman who was helping with the sand-bagging operation at the Faribault Cheese Cave, in Faribault, Minn., walks through the water on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2016. Heavy rain has flooded homes, closed major highways, stranded motorists and derailed a train in several Midwestern states. (Brad Phenow/Daily News via AP)
Michal said the man and a friend were exploring near a storm drain that empties into the river when the water suddenly came up on him.
She said the current was so strong, it ripped some of his clothes off. Michal said the man was grateful he didn’t get swept away, but he’s feeling a little sheepish about the incident and is unwilling to be identified.
Seventy miles south in Waseca, which saw nearly 14 inches of rain over two days. Basements were flooded across the community, and several residents were evacuated.
“We’ve never had it like this, never,” Joyce Brown, who has lived in Waseca for 42 years, said about the standing water on her property. “Never never never never never.”
To the southwest, the city of Faribault declared a state of emergency as it worked to hold back the Cannon and Straight Rivers. Crews placed sandbags to protect the Faribault Woolen Mill, a popular tourism destination, and built a berm to keep the water out of the Caves of Faribault, which are known for their award-winning, cave-aged blue cheeses.
The water was maybe ankle deep when Glen Steberg went into his barn Thursday morning along the Zumbro River in Wanamingo, about 60 miles south of Minneapolis.
An hour later, his son and their neighbor were chest-deep in dark, cold water, rescuing six calves and about a dozen steers. The men led the calves through the cow yard, where the water was chest-high, Steberg said.
“They were swimming all the way like a dog,” neighbor Logan DeWitz said.
In northern Iowa, authorities evacuated about 100 people from two apartment complexes in Mason City after Chelsea Creek left its banks, Cerro Gordo County emergency management spokesman Michael Groesbeck said.
“For four hours last night it was just a torrential downpour,” Mitch Nordmeyer, the emergency manager in Butler County, said as he coped with serious flooding Thursday morning on the Shell Rock River in Greene. “We have businesses that have water flowing through them and some homes surrounded by water.”
About 60 homes in the northeast Iowa town took on waist-deep floodwaters from the Shell Rock River.
People in the towns of Clarksville and Shell Rock filled sandbags in preparation for the river’s crest on Friday.