Mankato area residents spent a good part of Wednesday mopping up and digging out after heavy rains triggered mudslides, left streets flooded, damaged crops and generally put the brakes on normal weekday activities.
While most were streetsreopened by Wednesday morning, some roads still had deep-standing water, officials warned. Storm drains are open but water is draining slowly because of the heavy rain.
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State highway closures are common in the area when flooding happens, although Rebecca Arndt, spokeswoman for the Minnesota Department of Transportation's Mankato region, said she'd never seen such a "lengthy list" of city roads closed.
"There's quite a lot of standing water just about everywhere you look. Whether it's a field as you're coming into town, even a yard, some intersections, there's just a lot of excess water standing around right now," Arndt said.
Land of Memories Park, a major city park, is closed because of the rapidly rising river, according to the city.
State highways saw some closures, but nothing too unusual, Arndt said.
Highway 169 southbound from Mankato to St. Peter was closed because of flash flooding, but reopened Wednesday morning, said Arndt.
As of Wednesday morning, it's still restricted, though, to one lane just north of Mankato in the southbound lanes.
Highway 66 is closed because of a mudslide, but that's a common occurrence during this type of weather. A scenic section of Highway 169 that follows the Minnesota River just north of Mankato also has mudslides during heavy rain, Arndt said.
"It's an area that's kind of exposed to steep bluffs," she said. "We have a number of mudslides and debris wash through that area when we get these heavy rains. So it's almost a common practice for us now."
Highway 14 at Eagle Lake going westbound is also reduced to one lane, she said.
"We're trying to get the water back to draining where it's supposed to be and not running over the road," Arndt said.
It's a challenge for MnDOT to notify people early on about closures, she said. "We just need everybody to use caution and have patience."
'Turn around, don't drown'
Mankato is warning residents that driving or walking through the flood waters may be more dangerous than it appears.
While it may look calm, "there is often pooling water and the current is strong," the city said in a statement.
Sediment left by flood waters can make streets and sidewalks slippery so that walking in shallow water even less than an inch deep can be "dangerous and life-threatening," the city said.
Arndt suggested people heed the saying that's been around for years: Turn around, don't drown.
"It doesn't take a lot of water to make a car float," she said. Six inches of water can reach the bottom of most passenger cars and cause loss of control or stalling, she explained. A foot of water will make most vehicles float.
"And we have numerous inches sitting out there," Arndt said.
Silver lining in Luverne
Meanwhile, while rains and hail have caused millions of dollars of damage to homes, roads and crops in southwest Minnesota, the downpours may also provide a benefit.
City officials in Luverne and Worthington have been struggling to provide tap water due to low ground water supplies after two years of drought. But Luverne city administrator John Call said the big storms will change that.
"I think you can finally say this was probably a real drought buster," he said.
The city has received about 8 inches of rain since Saturday, and more than a foot so far this month. There's still a a watering ban in place, but Call said local leaders will discuss whether to lift the order in the weeks ahead.
Business bottom lines dampened around state
As the state surveys the damage from weekend storms in the northern and southern parts of the state, some businesses are looking at slimmer margins and fewer customers.
One of those businesses, Sandy Point Lodge on Lake Kabetogama south of International Falls, has had a tough open to the summer season, said owner Jennifer Gelo.
"We're figuring at some point it will back off and we will catch our breath," Gelo said. "We're just, at the moment done trying to guess when that will happen."
The resort's docks are underwater, their main lodge, restaurant and bar are sandbagged, and water surrounds their largest rental cottage, Gelo said. She doesn't yet know how much it will cost to repair docks and some buildings, but she expects resorts that depend on a full summer tourist season are going to be hit hard.
Rainy River flow restrictions
If, as the National Weather Service expects, 3 inches of additional rain falls on the already flooded area near the U.S.-Canada border by Monday, engineers at the International Falls Dam may close a few spillways to restrict flows from Rainy Lake into the Rainy River.
That might help protect operations at the Boise paper mill in International Falls, where water blasting through spillways and water wheels at the dam threatens its massive generators.
Paper rolls at the Boise mill Derek Montgomery for MPR News If the generators are flooded, the entire facility will be shut down for weeks, substantially cutting flows through the dam at the worst possible time, said Matt DeWolfe, an engineering adviser to the International Lake of the Woods Watershed Board.