Herald JournalHerald and Journal, July 1, 2002

Water where it shouldn't be

By Lynda Jensen

Torrential rains caused flooding that filled basements, turned drainage ditches into miniature rivers, and washed over roads, filling lakes over capacity last Monday night.

The rains destroyed two homes, one along Lake Ann south of Howard Lake, and another seasonal cabin at the east shore of Big Waverly Lake, which was lifted off its foundation by a mud slide across Wright County Road 9.

Standing water was found in places that were not considered low lying areas, cutting off travel to several county roads and even Highway 12 at the west end of Howard Lake.

Many flood victims stood in shock the day after the rains, wondering how water could be found where it was. Most of the damage was reportedly not covered by insurance.

Others noted surprise runoff from new developments in both Howard Lake and Waverly.

"I've never seen it like this," commented Waverly Fire Chief Mark Karels, referring to water that overflowed a nearby drainage ditch near his business, Mark's Service Station.

Even crews from the Minnesota Department of Transportation admitted being surprised where the water ended up, washing out roads that are not known for flooding.

Fuel tanks floating along Highway 12

Two fuel tanks owned by Cenex/Lake Region Cooperative were dislodged from their footings Tuesday morning, and ended up floating alongside Highway 12 for several hours.

The loose tanks, one gas and the other diesel, were partially full and floated like corks on the water, said said General Manager Brian Yager.

They are designed with safety shut off valves, which automatically close off the pipe leading to the tanks, Yager said. There are emergency numbers posted beside the tanks as well.

The diesel tank ended up floating into a swampy area adjacent to the tank area, causing men to wade into water up to their necks to retrieve it.

The other four tanks located at Howard Lake are nearly full and too heavy to be moved, Yager said.

Each tank holds about 17,000 gallons.

This is the first time that Cenex/Lake Region Cooperative has experienced problems with keeping storage tanks, Yager said.

The quick thinking and action of four men prevented the tanks from turning into a disaster, Yager said.

The tanks became loose in the early morning hours and were discovered by Darwin Zitzloff, a maintenance employee at Gordy Lund construction, at about 5:30 a.m.

What likely caused the tanks to move in the first place was the rippling water, called a "wake," from moving vehicles driving through the standing water on Highway 12, Yager said.

Normally, the section of land that the tanks are located on do not flood, even though it sits adjacent to a lower lying area, Yager said.

Zitzloff called Cenex Branch Manager Frank Cruz of Cokato.

Two other Cenex employees, mechanic David Kautz of Cokato, bulk fuel driver Paul Friedrichs came to the scene, Yager said.

Yager, Cruz, and Kautz ended up wading in water up to their necks in order to secure the wayward tanks, Yager said. Friedrichs assisted in traffic direction.

Cenex/Lake Region Cooperative owns the patch of land where the tanks are located, but it plans to abandon this location for future storage tank use, Yager said.

The existing tanks will be pumped out, Yager said.

Cenex/Lake Region Cooperative keeps fuel tanks in Annandale, Maple Lake, Buffalo, and Watertown, he said.

Consistent with other reports, Yager says that the water actually continued to rise Tuesday, despite the fact that the rain had ceased by that time.

When he first got there, the water was knee high at 6 a.m., Yager said. By 8 a.m., the water was waist high, he said.

The fear was that the tanks would knock each other and develop leaks, he said.

Vehicles under water

A number of vehicles parked outside were inundated by flood waters.

This included about vehicles marked for sale, parked near the Cenex/Lake Region Cooperative tanks, owned by a Lund's employee.

The vehicles had to be extricated by a skid loader (see photograph).

In an unrelated incident, three vehicles owned by Wright County Deputy Pete Palmer were found completely under water Tuesday morning.

The vehicles were parked at the long driveway to Palmer's country home, located halfway between Howard Lake and Waverly, along Highway 12.

"He's devastated," a fellow deputy said of Palmer.

Sand bagging along the lakeshore

Sand bag brigades quickly formed Tuesday, with a fairly organized effort made at Big Waverly Lake, and others along the shorelines of Lake Ann and Howard Lake.

Lake shore residents helped each other, bagging sand and moving back and forth on four wheelers.

Friends, neighbors and even strangers helped each other bag sand, in anticipation of predicted rain Tuesday evening.

The rain did not materialize, but sandbag efforts proceeded through Thursday, since the water levels continued to rise steadily, even though the rain stopped Tuesday morning.

Many lake residents reported floating docks, boats orphaned by the storm, and washed out beaches Tuesday morning.

Jenell Sawatzke found two boats floating by her dock at Big Waverly Lake Tuesday morning that she did not know who the owners were; although they were located later, she said.

James Main, who has lived next to Waverly Lake for 35 years, cannot remember his beach being washed out like this, he said. "Not this heavy," he said.

Main and his wife, Dorothy, spent Tuesday morning picking up rocks and gravel washed into their lawn. The Mains live near Wright County Road 9, very close to where the mud slide occurred, a few houses down from Craig Smith. Smith's house was lifted off its foundation during the mud slide (see separate story).

Flooded detours

The water also managed to flood nearly every county road in the surrounding area, including a mud slide the blocked Wright County Road 9.

At one point Tuesday afternoon, Howard Lake travelers were trapped from nearly all sides except from the east.

The initial routing traffic around Highway 12 Tuesday morning sent travelers in circles, since the roads being used to detour were also flooded, including two sections of Wright County Road 30, Wright County Road 8, Wright County Road 107, Wright County Road 5, Highway 25 south of Montrose, and then later in the day, Wright County Road 6 at the north end of Howard Lake, which was temporarily overtaken by water from the lake.

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