Southeastern Minnesota flooding covered near-record amount of land

  • Updated: August 22, 2007 - 8:13 PM

Last weekend's flood appears to be the state's second largest in area. About 14,000 square miles of southern Minnesota received at least 4 inches of rain, second to the storm of June 9-10, 2002, according to initial "back of the envelope" calculations by the Star Tribune and Assistant State Climatologist Greg Spoden.

The 2002 storm dropped 4 inches or more of rain over 15,000 square miles of northwestern Minnesota.

Both easily top what history has called the "granddaddy of flash floods," a July 1972 pummeling centered on Little Falls. That covered 6,800 miles with at least 4 inches of rain.

Train service interrupted

Amtrak train service on the Empire Builder between Minneapolis and Chicago remained disrupted Wednesday and today because of Canadian Pacific Railroad track closures through the flooded areas. About 28,800 travelers had made the trip on chartered buses since Sunday, according to Amtrak spokesman Marc Magliari.

Passengers were being contacted by telephone with instructions, when possible. Since trains generally make better time than buses, Amtrak was addressing missed connections with additional chartered transportation or complimentary lodging in Chicago until the next connecting train, Magliari said.

The Empire Builder originates in Chicago and travels through the Twin Cities and westward, before splitting to Seattle and Portland, Ore.

"A lot of people wait until August to take their vacations," he said. "And you have a lot of people going to and from college this time of year. It's strong pretty well through the year. If there's not summer travel, there's ski travel."

Recreation hazards

The state Department of Natural Resources is warning boaters, canoeists and kayakers to stay off affected rivers in southeastern Minnesota.

"Fast currents and debris in the water and along river banks are making conditions hazardous for paddlers," said DNR boating safety specialist Tim Smalley. "Debris hidden along stream banks and just under the surface can capsize a canoe or kayak and then the fast current can pin a victim under water."

No river travel is recommend on the Root, Zumbro, Whitewater, Straight and Cannon rivers, the DNR said.

Whitewater State Park in Winona County remains closed, as are several trails, including the Root River State Trail and the Southeast, Snake Creek and Trout Valley ATV trails, and all off-highway motorcycle trails.

Cleanup help

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency sent two trailers with petroleum-absorbing pads to Elba, Rushford and Stockton to clean up at least 12 residential and commercial fuel oil spills.

Residents were instructed to ventilate affected areas, and wear gloves and boots. The MPCA also was sending disposal barrels. Residents who need help can call 1-800-422-0798.

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