Des Moines River flooding prompts sandbagging
JACKSON -- Windom and Jackson started sandbagging along the Des Moines River Thursday to halt the floodwaters threatening the communities, using both volunteers and local emergency personnel to stem the tide.
"We are having considerable water issues, that is for sure," said Patrick Christopherson, Jackson's city administrator. "We have our police, street department and I think about a dozen high school boys putting barricades up and sandbagging along the bridge coming into town over the Des Moines."
Between 5 and 7 inches of rain had fallen on Jackson from midnight Wednesday to Thursday afternoon, and more was on the way.
"So far we've been able to contain it," Christopherson said. "... so far, it seems to be being managed pretty decently."
Jackson's sandbagging was a preventative effort. No extra volunteers were being sought because the sandbaggers were confined to a small area around the bridge.
Between 30 and 40 people were stuffing sandbags in Windom Thursday, including city staff and firefighters, with efforts focusing on ground transformers and public facilities. The city of Windom put sump pumps in to ensure the electrical transformers were kept dry and hooked up pumps to the storm water system, trying to help alleviate the localized flooding in parts of the Windom community.
At midnight Wednesday, a basement collapsed due to flooding and severed a gas line, prompting the evacuation of about 30 fami-lies. Most of them went to family friends, and others went to Cottonwood County Emergency Management. The gas was shut off and people were allowed back into their homes around 2:30 a.m. Thursday.
"We've closed Island Park. We had some campers down there, and we've got those campers relocated to the arena facility.... We've got several neighborhood streets, primarily those in the Red Leaf Court area, closed," said Steve Nasby, Windom's city administrator.
Windom's wastewater superintendent reported that only two sanitary sewer backups had been reported in town. As of Thursday afternoon, no major reports of sewer backups had been received in Jackson.
"We're just kind of in a 'wait and see' preventative mode right now, and nothing major has occurred just yet," Christopherson said Thursday. "We're supposed to get one more pretty extensive wave of rain between now and dark."
In Windom, too, city and emergency personnel were watching the skies -- and the Army Corps of Engineers river gauges.
"We're hoping (the rain) has passed us," Nasby said. "Obviously, we're above flood stage right now, and we've got some low-lying flooding."
The National Weather Service predicted the Des Moines would crest at 23 feet and sink back to 18 feet by noon Friday.
"We're not asking for volunteers for sandbags. We're asking people to minimize water use," Nasby said. "If they take a shower, wash dishes, flush toilets, that water goes into the sewer system."
Nasby also encouraged people to avoid driving in flooded areas, allowing city crews and emergency personnel to do their jobs.
"We're obviously monitoring it, keeping a very close eye on it, and hoping for clear weather," Nasby added.