Heavy rain brings floods

Published 3:26 pm Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Automobiles ford a large puddle near Godfather's Pizza and Hanson Tire Service on East Main Street in Albert Lea on Wednesday. -- Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

A thunderstorm Wednesday evening following by persistent rains into this morning brought floods to much of southern Minnesota.

The National Weather Service issued a flood warning and a flash flood warning for Freeborn County and much of the region on Wednesday. It was in effect until 1:30 a.m. but with the continuing rains, the federal agency extended the warning until 9 a.m.

Around 8:45 a.m. it extended it again to 2:30 p.m.

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The flash flood warning was in effect for the following counties: Blue Earth, Faribault, Freeborn, Goodhue, Martin, Rice, Steele and Waseca.

Streets, yards and basements are flooded across southern Minnesota. Early reports say Wells and many places in Faribault County were hit hard.

United South Central School District announced it will close for the day because of extensive flooding, and Alden-Conger will dismiss classes at 10:45 a.m.

The weather observation station at the Albert Lea Municipal Airport recorded 2.63 inches of rain between 3 p.m. Wednesday and 7 a.m. today. It really came down in buckets between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. Wednesday and 1:30 and 2:30 a.m. this morning. The rain let up between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m.

Lake patrol officer Matt Levorson of the Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office said Fountain Lake is 4 to 6 inches higher than normal. He said one pontoon boat escaped this morning and floated across the lake.

He advised boat owners to secure their crafts because the lake is rising fast.

“Make sure they are cranked up way out of the water or secure them to the docks or lifts anyway they can,” Levorson said. “A lot of water is going over the dam.”

He said the best option is to get the boats off the water. If boats float away, he will bring them to the sheriff’s dock at the City Beach.

According to Lt. Jeff Strom of the Albert Lea Police Department, as of 7:45 a.m. Thursday, to his knowledge no major weather-related auto collisions had been reported. He said the sewer lift stations had been going off all night and anticipates that if the rains keep up, Main Street could be flooded by late this afternoon or early evening due to the drainage into Fountain Lake and Albert Lea Lake, causing them to rise.

Strom cautioned that while he’s not aware of any road closures in Albert Lea at this time, a couple of spots in Albert Lea tend to flood quickly. He said that during past storms, West Main Street by St. Marys Avenue and East Main Street by Hansen Tire are two areas to be aware of. If possible, take alternative routes.

“If you’re out driving around, be careful of your speed,” Strom said. “You could hit the puddles in the roadway which could cause hydropane, especially outside of town, on the highways and interstate.”

He also cautioned drivers to pay extra attention to pedestrians because they’re “harder to see in the rain, with their raincoats.”

A flood watch was issued for most of Minnesota through Friday morning. Freeborn County was included in a hazardous weather outlook issued at 4:03 p.m. The outlook called for a possibility of hail.

Heavy rains fell in Albert Lea Wednesday afternoon from a severe thunderstorm sweeping eastward across southern Minnesota. The storm has reportedly dropped dime-sized hail in some places.

The National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm watch for Faribault County until 6 p.m. The watch affected Blue Earth County, Kossuth County in Iowa and counties to the west.

KIMT-TV meteorologist Kay Schaefer said rain is expected to continue through today.

“We’ve still got lots more to come,” she said.

Schaefer said a warm front lifted to the north on Wednesday, allowing a low-pressure cold front to slide across the Albert Lea area today — a typical pattern for causing extensive amounts of rain.

Click here for the latest area flood news.