CALEDONIA TOWNSHIP, Minn. — Houston County resident Ed Krugmire stepped outside about 3 a.m. Sunday morning to see his property covered in water.
The first thing he thought about was his cows.
“When I saw the water so high I thought the cows were (dead),” Krugmire said.
Beaver Creek, which runs through Krugmire’s property between Sheldon and Yucatan and past the historic Schech’s Mill he owns, had risen more than eight feet and covered County Road 10.
Luckily, the cows found a safe spot to wait out the rising waters, which after a weekend of heavy rains flooded portions of Houston County — causing an estimated $2 million in damage — as well as neighboring Fillmore County.
And the rain is expected to continue.
And in the next couple days, residents in Houston County should prepare for the worst, said Houston County Emergency Management Director Kurt Kuhlers Monday.
With the ground already saturated from excessive rain, new rain could bring more flooding and mudslides that could rival the 2007 flood, Kuhlers said.
But, he said — and the National Weather Service agrees — it ultimately depends on how much rain falls.
The Weather Service issued a warning Monday saying thunderstorms in the area could drop 1 to 3 inches or more on Houston County, which has already declared a state of emergency. Similar amounts are expected in Winona and Fillmore counties, as well as portions of western Wisconsin and Iowa. The Weather Service doesn’t expect flooding will reach 2007 levels, but also warned residents to be watchful — and careful while driving.
In Houston County, some reported 14 inches of rain over the weekend and others 10 inches.
Residents should be mindful of rising water, as well as mudslides, and be prepared to seek higher ground.
“People need to take notifications seriously. People need to be prepared for whatever may happen down here,” Kuhlers said.
The estimated $2 million in damage in Houston County is expected to rise as additional townships report.
“It’s pretty bad,” Houston County Sheriff Doug Ely said. “The whole county got hit.”
As of 7:30 p.m. Monday, at least eight county roads were closed in Houston County. On Sunday about 15 roads were closed and five were damaged but passable.
No injuries or deaths have been reported.
‘Nowhere to run to’
“Water was as far as you can see,” Krugmire said Monday, as he stood in the rain while pumping water from his field. “It was way worse than I thought.”
The only dry spot Sunday was an island about 20 feet by 10 feet, which Krugmire’s 10 cows, six calves and bull managed to squeeze onto.
“It was a short miracle they found a spot,” Sheldon Township Supervisor Dean Happel said as he and Krugmire looked at the small hill the cows crowded on.
A short distance from where Krugmire and Happel stood, about 20 feet of paved road had warped and cracked from soil washing away underneath. A bit farther up the road, a 50-foot stretch along County Road 10 had washed away, leaving a new ditch that at points was about four feet deep.
Happel, who’s lived in the area his whole life, said he’s never seen damage like this — even when the 2007 flood stormed through.
“In ‘07 and ‘08 there was more damage to the north,” he said. “This time it was more south.”
Most of the damage, he said, was to crops.
“Crop damage is huge,” Happel said.
Across southeast Minnesota, fields are covered in lakes, yet another burden on farmers who have struggled to plant late following the rainy spring.
“I don’t think there will be anything where the water is,” retired farmer Charlie Vix said as he looked out over his brother’s swampy field Monday near Rushford.
In other areas of Houston County, trees were uprooted and left in heaps along State Hwy. 76, leaving a graveyard of debris.
“There was globs of trees floating down the river,” said Dave Becker, who lives near the highway. He and his wife, Donna, looked outside Sunday to see water nearly 75 feet from their house.
“We had carp on the yard,” Dave said.
“I told him to cast out a line,” Donna joked.
The water moved an old chicken coup on their property about 20 feet or so, they said, but didn’t do significant damage to the property.
In Hokah along the Root River, water rose high enough to breach the city’s levee.
“It wasn’t like it washed a hole in it,” Mayor James Scholze said. “But the level of water was higher than the levee.”
It was high enough that Tri-State Auto Outlet Corporation moveed 60 of vehicles from the parking lot.
It was “a little spooky,” owner Tom Oldenburg said.
“I’m more worried about what’s going to come in the next couple days,” he said. “All this bottled-up water has nowhere to run to.”
Unlike in 2007, however, he’s happy to have a bit of warning this time.
“I think the response team has been really good,” Oldenburg said. “It’s nice to have a little warning.”
Tips from the National Weather Service and the American Red Cross
• Monitor local media and a NOAA weather radio for flood warnings and reports of flooding or other critical information.
• Be prepared to evacuate at a moment’s notice.
• When a flood or flash flood warning is issued for your area, head for higher ground and stay there.
• Stay away from floodwaters. If you come upon a flowing stream where water is above your ankles, stop, turn around and go another way. Six inches of swiftly moving water can sweep you off your feet.
• If you come upon a flooded road while driving, turn around and go another way. If you are caught on a flooded road and waters are rising rapidly around you, get out of the car quickly and move to higher ground. Most cars can be swept away by less than two feet of moving water.
• Have a three-day supply of water and food packed, along with a flashlight, extra batteries, first-aid kit, multi-purpose tool, copies of personal documents, cellphone with charger, cash, emergency blanket, insect repellent, sunscreen, and maps of the area.
Houston County roads closed as of 7:30 p.m. Monday:
County Highways 10, 11, 19, 25, and parts of 12, 15, 27, and 31.