A flooded road and wildlife management area in Murray County in southwestern Minnesota. DNR photo.
Conservation officer Gary Nordseth of Worthington patrols an area of southwestern Minnesota that usually is a sea of corn and soybeans.
Game and fish violations are the norm, not water rescues.
But torrential rains last week turned that pastoral setting into floodwaters that threatened the lives of four people caught in the flash floods.
Nordseth helped in the successful rescue of all four, launching his 16-foot Department of Natural Resources boat on a flooded Interstate 90 and in what had been a serene pasture.
"A father and son had gone to get their cattle to higher ground, and high water in the Rock River bottoms swept them up,'' Nordseth said. "They clung to a tree for four hours.''
Nordseth and other conservation officers launched the boat in the fast current and plucked them from the tree.
The area normally is a pasture. "Three days later the cattle were grazing there again,'' Nordseth said.
Nordseth also was involved in the rescue of a Minnesota state trooper who had tried to save a motorist who drove into floodwaters that flowed over Interstate 90. The officer pulled the woman from her car, but then became stranded as the current raged.
Both the officer, Brian Beuning, and the 21-year-old Anoka woman, Julisa Jones, were stuck in the raging current.
"We launched a boat on I-90, but couldn't get close enough to them without hitting them, the water was so violent,'' Nordseth reported. "There were 3 to 4 foot rollers."
So they took the boat downstream, in case the trooper and motorist were swept away by the current. Firefighters eventually tied a rope to a semitrailer truck and formed a human chain to rescue the trooper and motorist.
Nordseth said he them boated across a flooded corn field to get his boat close to a road, then called a tow truck to pull the craft into a ditch, where it was winched onto a trailer.
"I've never seen anything like it,'' Nordseth said of the flooding. He patrolled that stretch of I-90 for 20 years as a trooper before joining the DNR.
"Thankfully, everyone escaped with their life.''