The Big Story Blog

Small towns in flood's path focus on recovery

Posted at 5:03 PM on June 22, 2012 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Weather

MPR News reporter Tom Robertson dropped into Rutledge, a town of about 230 at the confluence of the Kettle and Pine Rivers that was hit by the spreading floods in northeastern Minnesota. Here's his dispatch:

More than a dozen homes here are surrounded by water from the raging Kettle River. That water is receding, but not fast enough for weary residents

Terry DeRungs watched the flash floodwater sweep over her yard in just minutes late Thursday morning. It now encircles her home and is rushing over the road out front.

"I was just running from window to window, and going outside because it was coming here so fast. I didn't know what to do," said DeRungs, Rutledge's former mayor.

By mid-afternoon Thursday, She was able to round up neighbors to help her fill about 400 sandbags, which are stacked two high around her house.

Similar stories could be heard in small communities up and down the river ways of Pine, Carlton, St. Louis and other surrounding counties.

Thursday night a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter had to rescue five people from raging water in the small Carlton County town of Thomson, where many residents had been evacuated a day earlier. State Public Safety officials say the town of Barnum, with 600 residents, was completely evacuated.

The worst of the rolling floods may be over.

The National Weather Service says the water has been moving south, but is also receding. It appears no major towns are in harm's way before the waters reach the St. Croix and Mississippi Rivers. Because the southern part of the state didn't get those heavy rains this week, the larger rivers will be only moderately affected.

In the town of Aitkin, a few businesses are sandbagging as local residents prepare for a crest of between 19 and a half and 20 and a half feet early next week.

In soggy Rutledge Lance Gockowski said he and his family will recover. But he's dreading all of the cleanup that will have to happen in the coming weeks.

"The back yard is a total mess," he said. "I've got logs jammed up from who knows where. I've got debris just like crazy, and who knows how far upriver that came from."

Rain is in the forecast for the area tomorrow, but it's not expected to be enough to produce more flooding. Much to the relief of a region awash in water, mud and clean-up work.


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About Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto writes the Big Story Blog for MPR News. He joined the newsroom in 2008 after more than 20 years reporting on education, politics and the economy for news wires and newspapers across the country.