The Heat Is Online

One Foot Rain Floods Minnesota Town

Floods plague Midwest, inundate Minnesota, June 12, 2002

Chest-high flood waters drove the mayor of Roseau, Minnesota, from City Hall Wednesday and many residents streamed out of the small town after spring storms deluged the U.S.-Canadian border region.

Minnesota National Guard troops in helicopters delivered 80,000 sandbags and construction equipment arrived from around the region to fight the flood waters from the record-high Roseau River.

"Right now we have heavy equipment on Main Street building clay walls to reclaim the town one step at a time," said Jim Vickaryous, Roseau's city superintendent.

The rising river collapsed a dike protecting the town of 2,800, forcing Mayor Jeff Pelowski to flee City Hall for the sheriff's office in this town near the Canadian border.

Residents managed to save one-quarter of the town's homes, its electric power substation and its water system, Vickaryous said.

Many roads in Roseau and surrounding counties were impassable, and Minnesota officials declared a state of emergency in 13 flood-stricken northwestern counties.

Parades of thunderstorms this spring have swamped small towns and farm fields across several Midwestern states from Iowa to Ohio. Flood waters have delayed the normal pace of corn and soybean planting, and businesses and homes have been ruined.

Stream flows were at record levels across sections of the Mississippi and Ohio River valleys, the U.S. Geological Survey said.

In contrast, scarcely a drop of rain fell on broad swaths of the Great Plains, setting the stage for fierce forest fires in Colorado that threaten to force mass evacuations.

A voluntary evacuation order was in effect in Roseau, but so far no one had been killed or seriously injured. Some residents stayed to keep pumps running and do what they could to protect their homes.

Many of the 1,800 workers at Polaris Industries Inc.'s plant, one of the region's largest employers, were busy stacking sandbags and pumping out the flood waters.

Operations at the facility, which manufactures snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles, were halted so employees could protect the plant and their homes, said David Swadberg, the company's human resources manager.

"Our first priority will be to get the town running again" once the flood waters recede, Swadberg said.

The waters rose in the wake of storms that dumped up to 1 foot of rain on the Red River Valley in North Dakota, the northern tier of Minnesota and southern Manitoba, Canada, over the past three days, meteorologists said.

"More rain is on the way, but it won't exacerbate the situation because the rainfall will be one-quarter inch or less," said Lee Anderson, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Grand Forks, North Dakota.

Copyright 2002 Reuters. All rights reserved.