Governor declares state of emergency; I-35 closed

Published 7:21 am Friday, September 24, 2010

Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Thursday declared a state of emergency in Minnesota due to heavy rainfall, which has resulted in flooding in southern Minnesota.

Hundreds of homes across the region have water in their basements.

Northbound and southbound Interstate 35 are closed south of Owatonna due to flooding near the I-35/Highway 14 interchange, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

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Southbound I-35 traffic should go east on Highway 14 to Claremont, south on County Road 3, west on Highway 30 and then back to I-35. Northbound I-35 traffic should use the same route in reverse.

Pawlenty plans to board a helicopter or plane and visit the waterlogged communities of Truman, Pine Island and Owatonna.

As of the Albert Lea Tribune’s morning press time, a flood warning from the National Weather Service remained in effect until 2:30 p.m. Friday.

The following Minnesota counties were in the warning: Blue Earth, Brown, Faribault, Freeborn, Goodhue, Le Sueur, Martin, Nicollet, Rice, Steele, Waseca, Watonwon and the southern parts of Scott and Dakota.

The two-day storm brought 6 inches of rain to Albert Lea.

The forecast for today calls for a high of 61 with party sunny skies and no rain. It predicts a west northwest wind between 14 and 22 mph, with gusts as high as 30 mph.

United South Central dismissed classes at 10 a.m. Thursday, and Alden-Conger dismissed at 10:45 a.m. New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva dismissed at 1:30 p.m.

The governor is activating the National Guard to provide assistance in providing emergency relief services.

The governor’s executive order also directs the Department of Public Safety, Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to activate the Minnesota Emergency Operations Plan, the provision of on-site support and assistance to the affected local governments, and determine the need for supplementary disaster aid.

Homeland Security and Emergency Management has activated the state emergency operations center to respond to requests for assistance from local government as they fight flooding in their communities.

Pawlenty said Friday he’ll spend most of the day touring flood damage in Minnesota and talking with local officials.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation has announced the closing of many highways in southeastern Minnesota. In south central Minnesota, MnDOT has closed some roads due to high water.

U.S. Highway 52 is closed near Pine Island. So is U.S. Highway 218 at its junction with Highway 14 near Owatonna. Minnesota Highway 83 north of Waldorf is closed.

U.S. Highway 14 west of Owatonna near Meridan is closed. MnDOT’s 511 website provides information on road closures.

Many county roads were flooded. In Freeborn County, about 30 roads had flooding problems, with many closed with barricades, such as County Road 20 near the junction with County Road 24 northeast of Bath on the Steele County line. It was ruled impassable.

Due to the heavy rainfall, Albert Lea is asking residents to limit water usage to prevent basement backups.

Lake patrol officer Matt Levorson of the Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office said three boats escaped their moorage — two pontoons and a personal watercraft.

The lake was up a foot or two higher than normal, Levorson estimated. He said it will continue to rise today as water comes from outlying areas of the watershed.

Click here for the latest area flood news.

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About Tim Engstrom

Tim Engstrom is the editor of the Albert Lea Tribune. He resides in Albert Lea with his wife, two sons and dog.

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