Storms rake SW Minnesota with hail, high winds
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - More waves of heavy rain and severe storms rumbled into Minnesota on Monday on top of damaging storms that drenched the state over the weekend, prompting Gov. Mark Dayton to cancel a planned visit to view flood damage in the southwest corner of the state.
Weekend storms dumped as much as 4 inches of rain at Luverne in the southwest corner of Minnesota and over 5 inches in some areas near International Falls on the state's northern border, and they packed wind gusts as high as 68 mph at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
Severe thunderstorms popped up again in southwestern Minnesota on Monday afternoon, and the National Weather Service said areas to the north were at risk as well, including the Twin Cities area. Additional waves of showers and thunderstorms were forecast through Friday.
Pipestone County reported 3.5 inches of rain Monday, the weather service said. A wind gust measuring 79 mph was reported in Jackson, while hail estimated at an inch in diameter fell near Jackson and tree branches were knocked down.
Dayton had planned to visit Luverne and Edgerton on Monday afternoon before he canceled his trip. Instead, he spoke with local officials via telephone conference call, and planned to use a previously scheduled trip to the region to meet with local officials Friday about storm damage and recovery efforts. He also announced plans to travel north to International Falls on Tuesday morning to meet with local officials and assess flood damage in Koochiching County.
Authorities activated the State Emergency Operations Center to help affected residents respond to the damage. The announcement said it was just a partial activation that requires officials from various agencies to determine whether state resources are needed for the recovery effort. No local officials have requested state resources so far, it said.
The state Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division said local officials were assessing damage to 12 township and county roads in Rock County. More than 6 inches of rain fell in Pipestone County, flooding roads in 75 locations in the Edgerton area and washing out the road to a bridge on the Rock-Pipestone County line, it said.
Sandbagging continued Monday in the International Falls area to build up dikes protecting homes, businesses and the city's water treatment and wastewater treatment facilities from rising waters on Rainy Lake and the Rainy River. U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, who represents the area, canceled two appearances on his schedule so he could travel to International Falls and meet with local officials and volunteers. Residents had filled 50,000 sandbags as of Sunday.
``It was 4 inches from the top of what they had bagged and they're expecting it to rise at least a foot yet by the time all the runoff is done,'' said Koochiching County sheriff's dispatcher Rich Rud.
The high water has left many residents' docks under water, as well as all docks and some boat launches at Voyageurs National Park. The park remained open Monday, but 24 campsites have been closed. Rud said no damage assessments have been done yet. Highway 11 west of International Falls remains closed due to flooding.
Heavy rains over the weekend aggravated lake and river levels that were already swollen with spring snowmelt. Koochiching County Sheriff Brian Jespersen said the National Weather Service reported over 2.5 inches of rain fell in the area, but he said some residents had gauges registering over 5 inches.
Sandbagging also continued Monday as the water level crept up on nearby Lake Kabetogama, another major lake that's part of Voyageurs. It flows into Namakan Lake before reaching Rainy Lake. Steven Steblay, director of homeland security and emergency management for the St. Louis County sheriff's office, said crews were working to protect homes, resorts and roads.
International Falls is about 300 miles north of Minneapolis.