Water war

COTTONWOOD – The city of Cottonwood received 10 inches of rain during the severe storms Wednesday night, causing roadways, yards and basements to become flooded.

The low area surrounding the intersection of Park Street and 1st Street was completely underwater, and the Cottonwood Fire Department had to use pumps to move the water to adjacent ditches. Sandbags were also brought in and placed around homes surrounded by floodwaters in an attempt to keep the main floors of the houses dry. Crews from the Cottonwood Fire Department, Cottonwood Ambulance and community members were helping fill and place sandbags.

Lyon County Sheriff Mark Mather was on the scene, inspecting damage and water levels with staff from the DNR and the Lyon County Highway Department.

“Right now, we’re just trying to preserve some property for the citizens,” Mather said. “The city system is not handling the water. We’re also having problems with a county ditch that dumps into Cottonwood Lake.”

Mather also said that members of the Marshall Fire Department, Tracy Fire Department, Minneota Fire Department and the Ghent Fire Department were also called in to help with pumping and sandbagging.

Cottonwood resident Troy Jones spent a good portion of the night with his wife and three kids riding out the storm in the community center.

“There must have been 20-30 people there between the upstairs and downstairs,” Jones said. “The back part of the trailer park is completely covered with water, and the elevator road is blocked off because of how much water there is.”

East of Cottonwood in Stanley Township, the Redwood River has overflowed its banks and flooded fields and pastures. Bruce Bitker’s farm sits on the north side of the river as it crosses under Lyon County Road 11 and said that when the water has gotten this high before, it tends to later start coming over the road. He has a deer stand in the flooded grassland near the river where the floodwaters are nearly touching the base.

Bitker estimated that the water was probably six feet deep there.

Wood Lake was also hit hard by Wednesday night’s storm. Steve Mensink with the city’s maintenance team said that the city received nine inches of rain the night before and is now pumping water out of the city’s overwhelmed storm sewer system.

“We are pumping out the storm drains, trying to keep basements dry,” Mensink said.

Yards and streets in Wood Lake were under water, including the local building center and 3rd Avenue.

Tornados and funnel clouds were spotted in the area Wednesday night, but no damage was reported. The National Weather Service reported a tornado just northeast of the intersection of Minnesota Highway 23 and Lyon County Road 33, but no damage was apparent, and a farmer living on the section said that he did not see or hear a tornado.

Gov. Mark Dayton on Thursday issued an executive order declaring a state of emergency in 35 counties, including Jackson, Lyon, Murray, Nobles, Pipestone, Redwood and Rock counties. The declaration makes available a number of state resources to assist with cleanup and response efforts, including on-site support and assistance to local governments in affected areas, as well as a determination for further emergency need.

MnDOT has created a web site with information on storm and flood-related road closures. The site is www.dot.state.mn.us/flood/