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In Scott County, flooding, frustration rise together

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Blakeley residents
Blakeley residents crowd a meeting Monday night in an effort to learn from Scott County officials when evacuation orders may be lifted and roads repaired.
Peter Cox/MPR News

High water and mudslides these past few days have made the roads around the Scott County township of Blakeley precarious to impassable, and people in the town are trying to figure out how to resume their lives after they were cut off from their homes.

Flood updates: Emergency declaration extended; rain in the forecast

At a packed meeting meeting called by Scott County officials last night their frustration was front and center. Among their complaints: The county response was disorganized, and communication hasn't been effective. Some also wondered whether county construction projects had caused even more mudslides in the area.

Sarah Meyenburg's family lost a washer, dryer, water softener, furnace, water heater and a freezer full of meat after flood waters inundated the family's home.

At one point last week, "The water is raging over the road and my husband my teenage daughter are standing out on the road with two by sixes trying to divert the water away from our house," she said.

Jeff Luskey said he came home from work Thursday afternoon to find all roads to his home blocked off. Police told him he couldn't go in, but Luskey said his wife and children were at home, not yet told about the evacuation.

"Went down there, and told them 'Hey, the town's evacuated, we gotta get out of here.' So finally, we grabbed out vehicles, a bunch of our stuff, clothes and food," Luskey said.

Dean Opatz, chief deputy with the Scott County Sheriff's Office, said the accounting of who had evacuated did not go as well as he wanted it to, in part because of a big mudslide near the town.

"I'll be honest with you. We were in a haste to get people out. I own this one on the registration of all of you. I apologize. Hearing those trees coming down that slide scared the hell out of me. I apologize if I didn't give you clear direction to come to the fire hall and register. I own that one," he said.

Scott County officials hoped to resolve some of those issues during the meeting. They passed around sign-up sheets for emergency calls, told residents they'd get volunteers to help them clean up their homes and properties, and offered t take away ruined appliances.

They also stressed that the roads are the biggest threat to public safety: Of the four that lead into Blakeley, "three of them are completely gone," said Jake Balk, a construction program manager with Scott County. "The fourth one is county road 60, we've got major washouts on both sides of the road."

While citizens want to be able to travel freely back to their homes, they currently have to go in and out on a four wheeler. In the next day or two, county officials plan to set up a service during waking hours to escort cars in and out.

But Balk says because the ground is so damp, the road supports are constantly moving. He's not sure when roads will be safe again, or when repairs can begin.

At times, the meeting was just a place to vent frustration about the unknowns -- if insurance would cover damage, if the Red Cross could put people up, when they might be able to move back in, or as Sarah Meyenburg wondered, if it could all just happen again.

County officials said people can stay in their homes, but warned that full power might not be restored, emergency services might not be able to reach them and that if more bad weather comes through, they could be in danger.

Xcel Energy worked Monday night to put up a temporary power line to restore electricity in homes.

After watching her home flood twice in 24 hours, and dealing with flooding issues four years ago, Sarah Meyenburg isn't sure she wants to stay.

"I don't know if I want to go back. So, it's hard," she said.

The Minnesota River Valley could get more thunderstorms Thursday and Friday.