Rain, rain go away!

While Arizona burns, Minnesota is drowning.  The rainstorm that hit Central Minnesota on Monday evening was just the latest in a string of June downpours that have caused extensive damage in communities all across the state.

The National Weather service reported rainfalls of 5.50 inches in Delano, 4.78 in Buffalo, and Maple Lake Public Works Director Jerry Sawatzke said the city’s gauge with a 6-inch capacity was overflowing.

In Maple Lake, dry basements were a rarity, but the situation could have been much worse. City maintenance crews worked through the night with assistance from the Maple Lake Fire Department to pump water out of flooded lift stations in an effort to keep sewage from backing up into basements.

They also provided manpower when a sewer backed up into the Curt and Catherine Nordlie home on Fourth Street when the sanitary sewer lift station couldn’t handle the large volume of water.

The Monticello Fire Department provided a portable floating pump which was also used to help alleviate the sanitary sewer crisis.

Sawatzke said quite a few streets were under water throughout the city during the storm.

According to the Wright County Sheriff’s Department, over three dozen highway, county and township roads were closed due to flooding, particularly in the Highway 12 corridor. It was expected that the 10-mile section of Highway 25 from Montrose to Watertown would be closed for several days until the water recedes and repairs can be made.

The western and southern portions of Wright County served by Wright-Hennepin (W-H) experienced power outages due to Monday evening's storm. About 2,000 W-H customers in the areas of Maple Lake, Silver Creek and Howard Lake experienced outages, primarily caused by lightning and high winds. By 11 a.m. on Tuesday, fewer than 100 customers were without power in those areas and crews were working around the clock to restore power to them as quickly as possible.

In and around Maple Lake, yards and fields were flooded and a portion of railroad track about three miles west of Maple Lake was washed out and required repairs.

But it wasn’t just water that did the damage. At the home of Tracey Grikavicius and Dale Hilton at 315 Birch Street, lightning felled a huge portion of a tree in their backyard at about 11 p.m.

“It was just a big crack,” Tracey said. “Then we heard something that sounded like a siren, came out and found it was the horn on one of our cars going off.”

Dale said he couldn’t get the horn disconnected because the weight of the tree prevented him from getting the battery disconnected and ended up smashing the horn with a crescent wrench. The fallen tree limb did considerable damage to the family’s two cars, and two feet of water accumulated in their basement overnight.

And there was damage of a different sort on Ramsey Lake. Ruth Glenn awoke on Tuesday to discover that a landslide had ripped away most of the family’s backyard. What was a grassy hill sloping down to the lake on Monday was a steep drop down a muddy cliff on Tuesday.

Hydrologist Gary McDevitt of the National Weather Service said Monday’s storm hit the counties of Meeker, McCleod, Carver, Wright and Western Hennepin. “It was a thunderstorm train,” he said. “One after another repeated over the same area and dropped copious amounts of rain.”

McDevitt said there is only a 1 percent chance of getting a 6-inch rainfall in a 24-hour period, and Maple Lake drew that short straw. “It seems like this year, we’re really getting hit,” he said.

The Wright County Sheriff’s Department urged residents to use extreme caution until the waters recede.  Flooded roadbeds where water is flowing are experiencing erosion, and may collapse under the weight of a vehicle. Flowing water can quickly carry an automobile away as the tires lose contact with the road.  Parents should advise their children not to play in or near the water. Water flowing in ditches and through culverts can create strong suction which can quickly pull a person under. Other areas of pooled water are quite deep and muddy. Child’s play in these areas could easily result in a tragedy under these conditions.

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