Rainy June causes problems for travelers, farmers and businesses

State Highway 19 is covered by the floodwaters of the Minnesota River.
State Highway 19 is covered by the floodwaters of the Minnesota River east of Henderson, Minn., on Monday, June 25, 2018.
Andrew Krueger | MPR News

Heavy rains and rising rivers in southern Minnesota are causing a variety of concerns, from closed highways to washed-out crops. Some areas have had more than a foot of rain this month.

The latest round of downpours, cloudbursts and gully washers started Sunday, bringing more than five inches of rain to some areas.

That means new, higher river crests are ahead, adding headaches for residents already tired of a too-wet month. Much of the water will end up in the Minnesota River which drains a good chunk of the southern part of the state. In Chaska, they've seen the Minnesota flood many times. In the current round of high water, Mayor Mark Windschitl said the flooding river closed part of Highway 41. Even though it has happened before, it still hurts, he said.

Traffic crosses the Highway 41 bridge across the Minnesota River.
Traffic crosses the State Highway 41 bridge across the Minnesota River at Chaska on Monday, June 25, 2018.
Andrew Krueger | MPR News

"There's a coffee shop there and he tells me when that road closes he'll lose about 50 percent of his business," said Windschitl. "So, it definitely does have an impact."

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The Minnesota Department of Transportation said high water also closed Highway 4 just north of Sherburn, Highway 19 at Henderson, and Highway 93 near Le Sueur. Many other county and township roads are also impassable because of flooding. Law enforcement officials say the best advice is to never drive through standing water. The Minnesota River is expected to reach five and a half feet over flood stage in Jordan by Saturday.

In the community of Blue Earth on I-90 in southern Minnesota, the storms shut down the town's wastewater treatment plant on Sunday. Since then crews have been working non-stop to restore service. City public works supervisor Jamie Holland said success arrived early Tuesday.

"At 4:30 this morning we were able to get part of our process up and running," said Holland.

The part that's not working is because of the flooding Blue Earth River. High water levels keep the city from discharging as much treated effluent into the river as Holland would like. But Holland said as river levels drop over the next day or so it's anticipated the wastewater plant will be able to return to full operation.

But even after that happens residents still face a substantial cleanup from the sewage that backed up into their basements.

Outside of town and across much of southern Minnesota, ponds of sky-colored water dot the lush green corn and soybean fields that cover most of the landscape. Crop consultant Regan Olson said the immersed plants can only survive a few days under water. He said for most fields the water is draining so slowly that it's already too late for the submerged crops.

"It can be as much as five to ten percent of that field is completely gone," said Olson.

The recent rains continue what's been a very wet crop year so far for many farmers. Olson said near Fairmont as much as 14 inches of rain have fallen this month alone. It's been so wet that a few fields have been unworkable.

"In some cases in southern Minnesota, growers were unable to plant their fields to corn at all," said Olson.

It's possible the unplanted fields could yet be sown. Soybeans seeded in early July can return substantial yields if the weather is good. But if that's going to happen, the fields need dry weather for at least the next week. The immediate forecast looks favorable, but then more rain is predicted this weekend.