Worthington: Floods strike southwest Minnesota counties
WORTHINGTON -- The remnants of a tropical storm helped make rainfall records across southwest Minnesota Thursday, fueling floods and wreaking havoc on sewer systems and roads, and prompting Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty to declare a state of emergency.
"Pipestone Creek at Pipestone has set an all-time record (flood) stage," said Jeff Chapman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. "It's the highest it's ever been gauged at."
Because of the severity of the floods Pawlenty activated the National Guard and declared a state of emergency for 35 Minnesota counties, including Cottonwood, Jackson, Murray, Nobles, Pipestone and Rock.
Rainfall totals for the regional storm event varied drastically even among locations close to each other, with Windom receiving 7.61 inches of rain at its river and 6.66 inches of rain at its airport.
Jackson had 5.94 inches of rain at its river and 5.20 inches at its airport. Worthington's airport recorded 5.61 inches of rain, with Lakefield receiving 5.59 inches of rain.
Pipestone was severely flooded, and though much higher rainfall totals were recorded elsewhere in the town, the gauge at the river recorded 5.05 inches, while the Pipestone airport got 4.16 inches of rain.
Most of the local rainfall counts were records for Sept. 23.
"Heavy rainfall at this time of year, while the degree of it is unusual, to have some heavy rainfall, especially mid- to late September, is not unusual," Chapman said.
The next chance of rainfall will be early Saturday morning. Dry and breezy weather is expected regionally today, Chapman said.
"After that, it does not appear there will be another chance of precipitation until at least late in the week," Chapman predicted. "It'll be a long window to dry out."
In Worthington, three men worked overnight Wednesday through Thursday evening to alleviate flooding difficulties at the Worthington Wastewater Treatment Plant.
"Usually four pumps will handle almost everything we've got, but nope, this was way too much," said Dennis Apel, the plant's superintendent.
Apel had to call John Luinenburg to get a bigger pump Thursday morning, as businesses opened their doors and people started taking showers. And most likely, the pressure on the sanitary sewer lines won't let up until water in local creeks begins to go down.
The area's floods were particularly severe because the ground had already been saturated by the rain that fell earlier in the week.
"If you can hold off on a shower, it would help... once the creeks start going down, the town gets back to normal really pretty quick, but everything is just so saturated now," Apel said. "Watch the creeks."
Firefighters from Fulda were pumping out storm sewers Wednesday night, and Fulda City Worker Butch Huerkamp said the system was full.
"Water was backing up onto the streets and in the houses," Huerkamp stated. "There was a lot of water coming up floor drains, things like that."
Around Murray County, several roads were barricaded as water began to run over the tops.
"I'm not sure what they got in Slayton, but we got a lot of rain here in Fulda," Huerkamp reported.
The National Weather Service recorded 3.86 inches in Slayton.
As the rivers in the region drain, much of their water will head south into parts of northern Iowa or the Sioux Falls area, making the recent storm event an ongoing concern.