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Heavy storms and rain pound west-central Minnesota

West-central Minnesota was pounded by rain during intense thunderstorms Wednesday and Thursday, leading to flooded streets, basements, fields and parks.

Baker Field at Bill Taunton Stadium about 9 a.m. Thursday morning of May 12, 2022 in Willmar.
Baker Field at Bill Taunton Stadium is shown about 9 a.m. Thursday morning, May 12, 2022 in Willmar, where rainfall totals reported early Thursday morning ranged over 3 inches after Wednesday night's storms.
Courtesy Willmar Athletics @cardsathletics
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WILLMAR — Heavy rains during thunderstorms Wednesday and Thursday inundated the region, causing flash flooding of streets, basements, fields and ball fields.

Rainfall totals from Wednesday night's storms ranged from a little more than 3 inches in New London and Willmar, to more than 5 inches in Prinsburg, according to the National Weather Service.

In Kandiyohi County and the city of Willmar, there were about a dozen reports of flooded streets or roadways. Reports ranged from people stuck in a disabled vehicle to people reporting flooded intersections to people driving too fast through the flooded streets, causing waves that were getting too close to houses, according to Willmar Police Chief Jim Felt.

The entire diamond on Baker Field at Bill Taunton Stadium was covered in floodwater at 9 a.m. Thursday, with another round of rain on its way shortly.

Willmar Public Works reminded residents on Facebook to discharge their sump pumps on their lawns, driveways or to the curb.

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"Just a few houses discharging their sump pumps to the sanitary sewer in one neighborhood can overwhelm our wastewater lift station pumps today," the post said. "No one wants sewage backups in their basements!"

Fields and ditches were also filled with floodwater.

HawkCreekDSC_0033.JPG
Heavy rains have soaked fields and further delayed an already late spring planting season while swelling waterways in the region. Hawk Creek rose over its banks in its lower reaches on Thursday. It rose about 10 feet in a 24-hour period at this site at a bridge over Minnesota Highway 23 south of Maynard, as shown on May 12, 2022.
Tom Cherveny / West Central Tribune

During the storm, Renville reported 1.25-inch hail and Atwater reported 2-inch hail.

Renville County Sheriff Scott Hable reported downed trees throughout the county, as well as a farmstead in Martinsburg Township, between Buffalo Lake and Hector, damaged by straight-line winds. The winds destroyed a machine shed, pushed a grain bin off its foundation, and landed a tree on top of the house.

He also reported township roads were flooded, as well as four county parks. Mack Lake, Anderson Lake, Skalbekken, and Vicksburg county parks closed their gates Thursday due to flooding from the Minnesota River, which continued to rise and overflow its banks throughout the day Thursday.

HawkCreekDSC_0031.JPG
Heavy rains have soaked fields and further delayed an already late planting season while swelling waterways in the region. Hawk Creek rose over its banks in its lower reaches on Thursday, rising about 10 feet in a 24-hour period at this location south of Maynard where it crosses Minnesota Highway 23, as shown in this photo on May 12, 2022.
Tom Cherveny / West Central Tribune

The Minnesota River is at flood stage in Montevideo, and city workers there are keeping an eye on the rising waters.

The river rose to 15.17 feet Thursday after the heavy rains Wednesday night, and the river is projected to reach 17.3 feet over the weekend. When the river reaches 18 feet, the city shuts off sanitary sewer service to residents in the Smith Addition, the lowest and most flood-prone area of the community.

City Manager Robert Wolfington said Thursday afternoon that the city had not made a call on whether to shut off the service. If it needs to do so, there will be time to notify residents in advance.

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The city is nearing the completion of work on the final leg of its levee system. A temporary berm has been put in place at a road crossing and overall, the newly raised levee appears to be doing well, Wolfington said.

Downstream in Granite Falls, the city is also watching the river. It remains about a foot from topping the lowest point on an alleyway in the downtown area.

Further downstream at Morton, the river was 22 feet at 11:30 a.m. Thursday and is expected to crest at 24.9 feet early Sunday morning. At 24 feet, Fleischer Road is flooded in North Redwood and storm sewers are closed off and bypass pumping begins.

The forecast from the National Weather Service calls for another line of thunderstorms and rain through the region Thursday night.

Jennifer Kotila is a reporter for West Central Tribune of Willmar, Minnesota. She focuses on local government, specifically the City of Willmar, and business.

She can be reached via email at: jkotila@wctrib.com or phone at 320-214-4339.
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