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Levels continue rising in Moose Lake

MOOSE LAKE, Minn. - At about 3 a.m. Thursday, Mavis Hartman said the water encroaching on her backyard from Moosehead Lake still left her with about 4 feet of lawn.

Sandbagging in Moose Lake
Doug Weisert, center left, hands Vern Anderson a sandbag as the Moose Lake residents sandbag Thursday at the Dairy Queen in Moose Lake. Clint Austin / Forum Communications

MOOSE LAKE, Minn. - At about 3 a.m. Thursday, Mavis Hartman said the water encroaching on her backyard from Moosehead Lake still left her with about 4 feet of lawn.

An hour later, she said, "There was no lawn."

By the early afternoon, the creeping water had flooded her basement and was slowly going up the steps to the back door.

"It just keeps coming. If it goes up another step," she said, "we'll evacuate. Then it'll be in our home, and we'll just have to go."

By the end of the day, dozens of homes in Moose Lake were completely flooded as water from the lake and the Moose Horn River overflowed their banks. In several neighborhoods of the town of 2,750, the only way to get around was by boat or swimming.


At one point, Greg Frye was willing to do just that. He owns Kennelz and Bits in Moose Lake and was asked to save what he was told was a dog in a flooded house. When he couldn't find access to a boat, he jumped into the water and swam out to DNR officials in a nearby boat. Eventually, other people who were helping Frye were able to make it to the house - but no dog was found.

Residents nearest the water were told they could voluntarily evacuate. Those who didn't worked to keep the water out of their homes with pumps, pails and shovels.

For Jaime Kuusisto and his mother, Pam Talarico, the only way to get to their house was by boat, and one was docked to their back deck. About 40 to 50 yards away floated the remnants of a shed they said marked the shoreline of Moosehead Lake. Even as the water filled their basement, they said they had no plans to leave.

Several blocks away, Ashley Chandler was part of a team helping to sandbag the perimeter of a house - though not her own. Her home, she said, had 4 to 5 feet of water in the basement, with more coming up through the drain pipe.

The flooding in Moose Lake first hit areas north of the town Wednesday. Mike Davis said volunteers filled thousands of sandbags from early Wednesday morning until about 11 p.m. in a parking lot next to the town grocery store, Marketplace Foods, in Moose Lake's downtown.

It only got worse for the town, as sometime during the early afternoon water got into the sewer lift station, causing it to break down due to substantial electrical damage, said Moose Lake City Administrator Mark Vahlsing. He said because of the problems all of the sewage was going to be pumped directly into the Moose Horn River, and he urged residents to limit their water and bathroom use.

Vahlsing said he couldn't even guess at the amount of monetary damage the flood had caused.

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Brandon Stahl writes for The Duluth News Tribune

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