In 2010 we seem to have turned natural tradition on its head . . . at least in Minnesota. On Wednesday evening in Northfield it started raining and it rained all night and into the following day. It rained HARD. It didn't stop raining until 4:30 or 5:00 on Thursday afternoon. We're told that the accumulation was somewhere between 5.5 and 7 inches. Superficially, that seemed innocent enough. However, that same level of rainfall and more happened over a wide portion of south central and southeast Minnesota and given what we know from experience about rivers, it guaranteed that the next several days could get quite interesting at best and at worst, devastating.
Communities south and west of us received 8-10 inches of rain in the same 24 hour period and all that water fed into the Straight River and the Cannon River, waterways that directly affect Northfield. Within hours the water level in downtown Northfield began to rise and by 4 or 5 a.m. on September 24 it was reaching record levels. I took pictures at about 8:30 a.m. and the power of the river was not only stunning, it was terrifying. I've lived in Northfield for a significant percentage of my days on the Earth and I can tell you that since 1956, there's never been an event like this. There was a major flood in 1965, but it didn't hit as hard or as fast as this one. I don't think it crested as high either. And as I write this at 8 p.m. on Saturday, the river is still moving at the same manic clip (7-8,000 cubic feet per second) at roughly the same height (25+ feet). I can't even comprehend the total volume of water that has passed through Northfield in the last 48 hours. It would constitute a good-sized lake.
|The Ames Mill Dam is nearly irrelevant|
|Sandbagging to protect the west flank of the Archer House|
The forecast for the next seven days is for above average temps and lots of sun so when the river level begins to fall the land can start to dry out, but it's gonna be a slog for days to come. And that's when we can start to retrieve the thousands of sand bags that were thrown down yesterday and help the property owners downtown clean up and reopen. Our work has only begun.