A week of intermittent thunderstorms has made life on Prior Lake awfully soggy for residents like Matt Brei, who trudged in waders through knee-high water to get his 3-year-old son to preschool last week after water encircled their home.
So, after talking to his neighbors and doing some quick research on flood dikes, Brei, 38, organized a sandbagging operation that filled, hauled and laid about 5,000 bags around his Glendale Avenue cul-de-sac, a nearby park and three homes.
By Sunday afternoon, their peninsula neighborhood was looking better, thanks to the dike, an army of volunteers and a big hydraulic pump loaned by Hydro Engineering of Norwood Young America, where Brei’s wife is an executive.
Stories like that played out across the greater Twin Cities area through the weekend as one storm after another punished the region.
The National Weather Service in Chanhassen said Sunday that 2014 has been the wettest year to date on record, with 25.82 inches of precipitation — far surpassing the previous record of 22.2 inches set in 1965. Despite sunny skies for most of Sunday, the walking trails at Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis remained underwater in places and ducks were swimming on the fairways of Hiawatha Golf Course.
Through Sunday, rainfall for June measured 11.35 inches at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. That’s just 0.32 inches short of the record 11.67 inches that fell in 1874, meteorologist Chris Franks said. Meanwhile, heavy rain Friday caused part of the roof of St. Mary’s School in Morris to collapse in western Minnesota. No one was injured, officials said.
Also Sunday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar said the Federal Emergency Management Agency will begin to compile its preliminary damage assessment on Tuesday to start the process of bringing federal help to state and counties with public infrastructure damage. Speaking from a damp Harriet Island in St. Paul, Klobuchar said FEMA’s assessment will take about a week.
Klobuchar’s next stop Sunday was going to be Norwood Young America in Carver County, where up to 9 inches of rain overwhelmed the city’s wastewater treatment facility and caused 30 feet of raw sewage to back up.
Around Prior Lake, water levels came within 1.5 inches of the lake’s 1907 record, 907.6 feet above sea level, according to Mayor Ken Hedberg.
Hedberg said he waded through two neighborhoods Sunday that still have flooded streets.
“People told me they are in pretty good shape,” Hedberg said. “They walk through the water to their homes or stay with friends. I feel we are in pretty good shape given the circumstances.”
He said the last time flooding approached this level was in 1983, when an outlet pipe from Prior Lake to the Minnesota River was installed.
Hedberg said about 60 homeowners, many who have dealt with backed-up drains or wet basements, have sandbagged and two residents have evacuated their homes.
Along Frost Drive on another Prior Lake point, Tim Mannion and friends piled about 500 sandbags around the back of his house. He rigged up a sump pump that shot out water that pooled between the bags and his house. As his sons played in the lake and sand piles nearby, Mannion said he checks the pump several times at night.
“You have to keep plugging away at all hours of the night,” he said.
By Sunday afternoon, standing on a dry street lined by soggy lawns, Brei, a compensation consultant, and his neighbors were feeling proud of their dike, if a bit sore from the sandbagging.
More than 50 volunteers from Prior Lake High School sports teams, two local churches and others worked Friday and Saturday to erect a 2- to 3-foot-high wall, with sand and bags provided by the city.
“Without the volunteers, we would still be working,” Brei said, as his son, Jakob, urged him to leave the dike and head for the lake while the brilliant sun lasted. “We thank every volunteer who helped.”