The low hum of a motor filled the air as a large, funnel-shaped contraption squeaked, banged and spurted sand into bags. City workers gathered around the device — about the size of an outhouse — and hoisted the white sacks to a nearby table.
Doug Beeman grabbed a sandbag, tied off the top, and pushed it toward workers who stacked the bags onto pallets. City crews made more than 5,000 sandbags the previous day and were on track for 10,000.
“Yesterday, I was on that,” Beeman said, pointing to the group hauling newly filled bags from the machine to the table. “They usually rotate every half hour, but everybody seems to like what they’re doing.”
The sandbagging machine — on loan from Montevideo, Minn. — was in town for two days, after making similar stops in Lake City and Wabasha, Minn.
Beeman, who normally takes care of trees for the parks and recreation department, joined nearly 20 men who spent Wednesday stockpiling sandbags.
The machine allows for quicker and easier work than a shovel, said Central Garage Manager Arlan Runningen. That’s how workers did it for the 2001 flood — the last time Runningen remembers making sandbags.
The sea of bags stacked on pallets behind the city garage could come in handy, as local weather officials expect high chances of moderate to major flooding for Winona this spring, including a 30 to 40 percent chance the event breaks 20.77 feet, the record-breaking height of the 1965 flood.
Sandbags could be used to fill a number of low spots along the dike — created by roads and walking paths — if the river reaches 18 feet or more, Runningen said.