Homeowners and businesses in Willmar faced a colossal mess Thursday after more than 8 inches of rain fell overnight on the south-central Minnesota city.
Downpours across central and southern Minnesota dumped much more rain than forests, farm fields and lawns could soak up, causing street flooding in the Twin Cities metro area, raising creeks and rivers, and creating vast, muddy puddles where before there were just dips and valleys.
But the worst-hit was Willmar. Little lakes popped up in neighborhoods throughout the city; sump pumps could not keep up with the water filling basements, and in some cases, ground floors.
Floodwaters started to recede by noon, but more rain was possible overnight Thursday, forecasters said.
Mary Hanson, who lives on Becker Avenue SW., tried in vain to keep the water out, but there was so much of it that it submerged her washer and dryer, and a dresser was floating in water that reached within inches of ceiling.
“It’s awful,” she said Thursday afternoon after a sleepless night. “I didn’t know a dresser could float. The water just would not stop. I started with towels and comforters to sop it up, but when it got up to my calves, I gave up. But I still have electricity upstairs. You have to celebrate the little things.”
Hanson took a break from bailing water to watch the Olympics on Thursday. She found rowing, swimming and water polo on the air.
“I’m so done with water,” she said.
The scene was similar in neighborhoods across the town of about 20,000 people. More than 2 feet of water covered 6th Street, and authorities asked businesses and residents to avoid unnecessary travel and not to use any city water as its overwhelmed wastewater treatment and storm sewer systems tried to keep up.
One home foundation gave way when a water line ruptured, said Sean Christensen, Willmar’s public works director.
South of Willmar, in waterlogged Olivia, city crews were using every available pump to get water off the streets as some residents bailed 2 feet of water from their homes, said Julie Sander, a Renville County Sheriff’s Office dispatcher. The Red Cross sent kits of mops, brooms, gloves and buckets to help start cleanup, said spokeswoman Carrie Carlson-Guest. “Some homes sustained quite a bit of damage,” she said.
In southeastern Minnesota, motorists encountered flooded highways near Owatonna. Heavy rains triggered mudslides and tree damage along Hwy. 61 near Wabasha and Elba, the state Department of Transportation said.
In the Twin Cities, 2 to 4 inches of rain fell Wednesday night and Thursday morning, making many roads impassable for a few hours. Rushing water flooded parts of Cretin and St. Clair avenues in St. Paul, an underpass at Hwy. 36 and Fairview Avenue in Roseville, Old Shakopee Road in Bloomington and Hwy. 62 at Penn Avenue in Richfield, the Weather Service reported.
Some of the heavier 24-hour rainfall amounts recorded by Weather Service observers included Olivia and Willmar at just over 8 inches, Hutchinson at 6.32, Wanamingo at 4.93, Red Wing with 4.73, Bloomington with 3.95, Prior Lake with 3.86, St. Paul with 3.77 and downtown Minneapolis with 3.25 inches.
More rain was possible Thursday night in the metro, but it wasn’t expected to be as heavy. But southern Minnesota and northern Iowa were in the bull’s-eye for another deluge, said Rick Hiltbrand, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Chanhassen.
“Iowa could be a real mess,” he said. “Southern Minnesota around I-90 will be under the gun.”
Friday will bring drier, cooler weather to the Twin Cities, although there’s a slight chance of rain in the morning, according to the Weather Service. The rest of the day will be partly sunny with a high in the low 80s.
The weekend looks perfect: Sunny Saturday and Sunday with a high near 80 both days — and no rain. By Monday night, however, a chance of showers and thunderstorms will return, lingering through the week.