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Residents in Maynard battle rapidly rising waters

Al Leese, left, looks over a sandbag levee volunteers were stacking to protect his home Wednesday on the so-uthern edge of Maynard. Tribune photo by Tom Cherveny

MAYNARD -- Volunteers scrambled to protect the community of Maynard Wednesday evening as the waters of Hawk Creek unexpectedly surged to levels exceeding those experienced during the flood of 1997.

It happened in hardly an hour's time.

"Unbelievable how rapidly it came up, unbelievable," said Maynard Mayor Richard Groothuis as he and others lined up to stack sandbags at the community's wastewater station around 6 p.m. Keeping the waters from reaching the plant was essential to prevent the town's sanitary system from backing up and flooding the basements of homes throughout the community.

"Catastrophic," is how the mayor described that feared possibility.

Similar anxiety was being felt just a short distance upstream, where volunteers were hastily building sandbag walls to protect three homes located south of Minnesota Highway 23 near Hawk Creek.

"The water is higher than '97," said one of those homeowners, Al Leese. He has had to protect his home from three major floods now, but neither the 2001 nor 1997 floods brought waters this high, he said.

Volunteers stacked sandbags to protect the three homes south of the highway as well as another north of it in yesterday's emergency action.

Four days of flood fighting upstream in Clara City had provided plenty of warning that high waters were on the way, and Maynard had prepared for them. The mayor said they had erected a 1,000 sandbag levee to protect the homes in anticipation of the rising waters, but no one expected as rapid or as large a surge as occurred sometime after 5 p.m.

In minutes, the sandbag levee that had taken hours to erect was breached and the fight was on. Two large mechanical hoes were pressed into action to remove ice jams on two bridges south of the community as the flow in the creek continued to pick up pace.

Waters in 1997 had approached the city's wastewater plant from the creek, but this time they raised high enough to threaten the plant from two sides. This year's waters also inundated the city cemetery on the city's south end, reaching ground that had remained dry in 1997.

The flood fight was aided by preparations in Clara City, where volunteers had filled a contingency supply earlier. Some 5,000 bags and helping hands from the community were rushed to Maynard's aid.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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