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Calm rescue keeps panic at bay in Granite Falls

Submitted Yellow Medicine County Sheriff's office Chief Deputy Wayne DeBlieck holds two-year-old Terelee Wilson. The officer helped bring her and her family members to safety when floodwaters rose faster than expected Thursday morning on a township road downstream of Granite Falls.

GRANITE FALLS — Two Yellow Medicine County sheriff's officers came to the rescue of a family south of Granite Falls when floodwaters caught them by surprise early Thursday morning.

It wasn't so much the rescue truck the officers arrived in that mattered. It was their calm demeanor and how great they were with the children, said Mark Hoeper. "He was really great with the children," Hoeper said of Chief Deputy Wayne DeBlieck. "He kept them calm."

Hoeper and his wife, Rhonda, and their three grandchildren were expecting floodwaters to eventually reach their home on River Road, south of Granite Falls. But the river came up much faster and sooner than they were expecting. It was a phone call at 6 a.m. from a neighbor that alerted them to the fact that waters were fast surrounding their home, which is located on the end of the dead-end road.

The Hoepers and their grandchildren, a 17-year-old boy and girls, ages 12 and 2, hopped in their van. They made it two houses down when they realized they could go no farther due to the waters. They pulled into a driveway, and when they opened the doors water started coming up. Hoeper stepped into that water and said it was so cold it was painful. There is no way anyone could safely wade any distance through that water, he said.

With a neighbor's help, they were able to get the van moving on the soft gravel road and retreated to their house.

They had no more than reached the house when DeBlieck and Sheriff Bill Flatten arrived on the scene driving a large truck able to manage the high waters. "We hadn't even called them,'' said Hoeper.

"Time to go,'' he said the officers told them in a matter-of-fact tone. There was no argument, he added.

Rhonda and the granddaughters jumped in the truck with the officers, while Mark and his grandson followed in their own pickup truck. The two-vehicle caravan made it without incident to nearby state Highway 67 and safety.

"They were so good with the kids," said Hoeper.

Tom Cherveny

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

(320) 214-4335
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