August 3 storm adds to local weather damage

The storms keep coming and the damage keeps mounting as rain and lightning once again caused havoc in the Maple Lake area.

The storm dropped up to seven inches in central Wright County, with the City of Maple Lake reporting 4 inches and resident Ed Raiche reported 4.25 inches of rainfall.  A fire at the Immanuel Lutheran Church parsonage in Silver Creek was apparently caused by lightning from the storms that swept through the area on Saturday.

The Maple Lake Fire Department responded at 4:31 p.m. to the fire at the uninhabited parsonage.

The fire was reported by the Silver Creek Community Church pastor, Bob Vandevord, who lives across the street. He said he heard a lightning strike and turned in the alarm when he smelled smoke. There didn't appear to be a visible point of entry from the lightning strike.

Russ Repke, a retired Minneapolis fireman, who lives nearby in Silver Creek, said he was sorting items for his forthcoming auction when he heard the strike. “I must have jumped two feet,” he said. He and his granddaughter provided snacks and cookies for the firemen.

The fire was contained in the roof and second floor, however, there was significant smoke and some water damage throughout the building. At times the firemen were working in a heavy downpour of rain.

Church trustee Larry Gordon said most of the fire damage occurred to the roof of the parsonage, two bedrooms and an upstairs hallway. “At the present time, we don’t have a pastor, so the house wasn’t occupied,” Gordon said. “We’re just lucky that no one was there.”

The fire department also assisted the city maintenance department in removing an obstruction in the sanitary sewer line on Sunday.

Public Works Director Jerry Sawatzke said that a blockage was discovered near the Wastewater Treatment Plant at about 7 p.m. on Sunday. He said an infiltration dome from a manhole fell inside and was swept down the trunk line until it became lodged in another manhole downstream.

Firefighters went door to door to ask residents to refrain from using the system until the problem was corrected, which was later in the evening. Two firemen, Kip and Bill Blizil, and Fire Chief Todd Borell spent most of the day helping the city workers with the situation.

The fire department pumped water from one trunk line to the other trunk line so that the cause of the blockage could be determined and removed. Sawatzke said it was about 12:45 a.m. before he was able to leave the scene.

Saturday was also a tough day at the Wright County Fair in Howard Lake.  “It hurt us really badly,” said fair ticket manager Dick Sonstegard. “We only had about 5,000 people at the fair on Saturday, where normally we have from 20,000 to 22,000.”  Sonstegard said the midway shut down at 5 p.m. and did not reopen. After several delays, the Tractor/Truck Pull finally got underway, managed two pulls, and then had to be cancelled. “That’s what really hurt on Saturday night was not being able to have that tractor and truck pull,” Sonstegard said.

He said the crowds came back on Sunday to a very wet fairgrounds. “When I came to the fair on Sunday morning, the entire lower parking lot was totally unusable,” he said. “But people did come back. I was actually surprised that as wet as it was, the food vendors were saying Sunday was the best day of the fair.”

And local residents also had their share of storm related problems.

The home of Brad and Shelly Karja suffered the kind of damage you just can’t repair when a lakeside hill at their home on Maple Lake slid down to the beach.

Shelley said she could hear it go from the house and said it was kind of a rumble. “I almost thought Brad was on the Bobcat doing something,” she said.  Brad was down below the hill at the time, taking pictures to show the township the water problem on his property and managed to get out of harm’s way. “It started behind me,” he said. “I just kind of back out of the way.”

The landslide crushed the Karja’s boat lift and took out a 100-block retaining wall. “Those blocks are 82 pounds each and it took them out like they were toothpicks,” Brad said.

There is also a huge tree that Grad said looks like it’s ready to go, blocks are wedged next to his dock and boat lift, and his beach is covered with five feet of mud.  “It’s a mess,” he said.

Albion Ridges Golf Course is learning to live with expanded water hazards in this rainy summer. Owner Dennis Olson said the course recorded five and a half inches of rain from Saturday’s storm, but it didn’t faze golfers. “We had 300 people at the course on both Saturday and Sunday,” Olson said.

Dan Effertz, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said Wright County recorded from 3.3 to nearly seven inches of rain from Saturday’s storm. Hardest hit, as was the case with the June 24 storm, was the central and southern portions of the county, with a range of rainfall from 5.3 to 6.6 inches. Unlike the June 24 storm, which did its damage in a few hours, Saturday’s storm came in waves throughout the day, which Effertz said was caused by a slow-moving storm which kept regenerating itself.

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