A drastic change of scenery in 2 towns

Floods tore up the landscape in Winona County's Minnesota City and Stockton.

MINNESOTA CITY, MINN. -- The Tofstad boys always thought they had the coolest back yard in town. It was wide and deep, with a fire pit, a grove of mature trees, an archery target and enough lush grass for Wiffle ball or flag football.

Not anymore.

The heavy rains and raging waters that destroyed parts of six Minnesota counties over the weekend cut a nasty gash into the hillside along Garvin Brook in Minnesota City, eating away enough dirt to send all of those trees and much of the Tofstads' back yard downstream.

By Monday, the boys had a clear view of the still-swollen creek and the devastation left behind.

Gone was a garden on one side and an above-ground pool on the other. Willow and elm trees are history, too.

"Usually, you couldn't see much of the creek or the bridge because of all the trees," Steven Tofstad said. "We had about 20 of 'em back there."Before, we were all blocked off by the trees," said his twin brother, Robert, who along with Steven, brother Andy, 9, and parents Matt and Jenny, videotaped the destruction. "Now, everyone can see us."

And the Tofstads were lucky.

Garages, cars and sheds lost

About a half-dozen neighbors in the town of 235 people had it worse. Some lost sheds and garages and septic systems and pieces of foundation to the river. Others nearly did, with garages and houses dangling ever-so-close to the edge of the newly cut creek bank.

One homeowner lost a car when the bank gave out and the garage floor collapsed.

The water swept through town, taking apart bridges as it cut a wider swath than anyone could have imagined.

First signs of trouble

Mayor Don O'Neil, who lives across the street from the houses hardest hit, said the first sign of trouble came about 6 a.m. Sunday when the brook, which normally is about a foot deep and 12 to 15 feet wide, rose up and washed out footings of one of the town's railroad bridges. Within minutes, the second railroad bridge washed out, too.

When the highway bridge that spans the creek broke apart about an hour later, the brook, by then resembling a raging river, started eroding the north side of the creek bank.

Some residents, such as Stan and Gerry Smith, left hours before. The Tofstads packed up their videos and family photo albums and put them in the car, just in case. Other neighbors hurriedly helped each other remove items from their yards.

O'Neil suspected there would be problems when he heard reports late Saturday night of flash flooding in Stockton, which is 5 miles upstream.

"Everything that goes into Stockton from the hillside winds up here," O'Neil said.

Messy cleanup in Stockton

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