Herald JournalHoward Lake-Waverly Herald, Sept. 2, 2002

Record of a disaster: a look back at Waverly's flood

By Lynda Jensen

A flurry of meetings by the Waverly City Council ­ five in a one-week period from June 26 to July 3 ­ chronicle the historic and disastrous flooding of June 24 and 25, according to the city minutes.

The first emergency meeting was called June 26 to meet with Wright County Commissioner Dick Mattson and the council.

During the meeting, it was noted that 14 to 15 inches of rain fell in a two-day period, causing the lake level to go up by three feet. The city dock floated away during the storm.

A lightning strike burned out the main lift pump, and several sewer grinder pumps around the lake were immersed, causing them to fail.

Between 45 and 50 trees were downed due to mud slides along Dempsey Avenue and North Shore Drive.

Ninety yards of sand were brought in to prevent additional flooding. Approximately 75 to 100 additional staff time was needed due to the storm.

Mattson recommended the city contact the Sentence to Service program for workers.

The maintenance department had trouble locating parts for the older sewer pumps and may need to order two more pumps and motors for $15,000 to $20,000. This was approved.

"The park is totally flooded with fish swimming on dry land," was noted in the minutes.

Two days later, the council met again to hear an update on the situation.

The Salvation Army initially provided drinking water to the residents, as well as some meals for the volunteers working as sand baggers.

About 240 yards of sand and 18,000 sand bags were used by that point in time.

Bolton & Menk is conducting a hydraulic study of the drainage system in phase one of Summerfields, and Highway 12 area culverts to the north to assess the need for improvements. A land slide occurred between Eight and Ninth Streets.

The emergency application for FEMA and other related topics were also detailed in the minutes.

It was noted that the sheriff's department was patrolling the lake heavily.

A motion was made to request assistance from the National Guard, Army, and other available forces to assist with the sand bagging and clean up efforts in the community. This was unanimously approved.

Residents were present to address drainage concerns.

It was noted by council members that there was excellent community support during the crises, but that more volunteers were needed.

Once again, the council met a few days later June 30, during a special meeting with Mattson, Sheriff Gary Miller, fire department members Rick Nolan and Mark Karels, and the city maintenance department.

During this particular meeting, Woitalla reported worrisome increases of the lake by an inch-and-a-half overnight.

Extreme heat caused concern for the numerous volunteers working in the humidity.

For this reason, sand bagging was suspended at 3 p.m.

Miller explained the procedure for calling the National Guard, which is complicated ­ and that all other resources must be exhausted before such an action is taken.

First, city resources must be exhausted, then county, then state, Miller said at the meeting.

It was decided instead to call for mutual aid of area fire departments. Miller indicated he would call out sheriff's reserves and the scout program, if needed.

Evacuating the lake residents was discussed, although it was noted they were not willing to leave.

The Red Cross was delivering water to the lake people, since they have private wells.

Woitalla noted that the city's water supply was safe because water is not drawn from the ground surface, but from the Hinckley aquifer.

"The sand bagging efforts are going well with numerous volunteers and fire departments coming to assist with flood relief. The volunteers are pacing themselves and taking needed breaks to prevent heat exhaustion," the minutes read.

Next, the council conducted a flood informational meeting July 1 attended by more than 100 residents.

Mattson once again attended, along with Wright County Commissioner Jack Russek.

During the meeting the following people gave presentations:

· Mary Anderson of the University of Minnesota Extension Service gave a presentation on how to clean carpet and clothing on flood affected items.

· Chuck Davis of Wright County Environmental Health explained about contamination of private wells.

· Kerry Sexton of the Wright County Soil and Water District spoke of loose soil and information about 100-year floods.

Sexton noted that a 100-year flood is classified as six inches of rainfall in a 24-hour period. Waverly had eight inches or more.

A 100-year flood in a 10-day period occurs when 10-and-a-half inches of rainfall is received.

·Marlene Gordon of the Red Cross who spoke about the shelter open at St. James.

· Wayne Fingalson of the highway department of Wright County, who spoke about the county's efforts to stabilize the slope on Dempsey Avenue (Wright County Road 9).

· John Rassat of Waverly maintenance reassured residents the drinking water was safe. Twenty two sewer grinder pumps are shut down around the lake, Rassat reported. He suggested residents share facilities with neighbors.

· Genell Reese of the Wright County Civil Defense, who spoke about FEMA funding and the process for emergency funds.

The last emergency meetings specifically devoted to flood subjects was an emergency meeting called July 3 to address Waverly Daze.

Many events continued despite the flooding, albeit relocation was necessary since the park ball fields were completely under water.

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