Minnesota News

Mudslide closes southern Minnesota highway; torrential rain leads to flooding

Vehicles caught in a mudslide across a highway
A vehicle is caught in a mudslide that happened amid heavy rain along State Highway 68 near Courtland, Minn., on Sunday. It was unclear in initial reports, whether anyone was injured.
Brown County Sheriff's Office

Updated: 3:40 p.m.

Torrential rain led to flooding in parts of southern Minnesota on Saturday evening, and may have triggered a mudslide that closed a state highway early Sunday.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation reported at about 5:30 a.m. Sunday that State Highway 68 is closed south of Courtland due to a “sizeable mudslide” across the driving lanes.

Photos provided by MnDOT and the Brown County Sheriff’s Office showed one car caught in the mud, and another damaged vehicle nearby. It was not immediately clear if there were any injuries in the slide that happened near the Brown-Blue Earth county line.

A mudslide covers a highway
A mudslide that happened amid heavy rain closed a stretch of State Highway 68 near Courtland, Minn., on Sunday. A damaged vehicle is visible at right; it was unclear in initial reports, whether the vehicle was caught in the mudslide and whether anyone was injured.
Minnesota Department of Transportation

“Officials are onsite clearing the debris, and are monitoring the slide area to make sure that no more debris will slide onto the roadway,” MnDOT reported early Sunday. The highway reopened around 10 a.m.

Previous mudslides have closed that stretch of highway twice in the past 5 years — in 2018, and again in 2020.

“We've had some kinda crazy rainfalls the last couple of years where we've seen these longer duration rains or these downpour type style of rains where once that water starts coming over the slope, it just seems to keep taking more material,” said Chase Fester, assistant maintenance manager for MnDOT District 7.

MnDOT is continuing efforts to prevent mudslides, like adding plants and reinforcing the slope. Fester said these measures have helped, but they don't always prevent slides.

The latest closure comes as Highway 68 was carrying more traffic than usual as the designated long-term construction detour for U.S. Highway 14 between Mankato and New Ulm.

The additional detour due to the landslide is now taking drivers on Highways 15 and 60, through Madelia.

MnDOT also closed State Highway 93 south of Henderson on Sunday morning due to water over the road.

Highway 19 east of Henderson to Highway 169 will close also close as of 7 p.m. Sunday due to flooding.

Meanwhile, to the southwest, the heavy rain caused flooding Saturday night in the city of Comfrey.

KEYC-TV in Mankato reported there was significant flooding on the south side of town, with sandbags placed around some residences to keep water out.

“You know, last night we probably had 50 to 60 people filling sand bags and sandbagging,” said Comfry Mayor Gary Richter. “People just step up, they see what has to be done and they do it, so it was another amazing night as far as the people go.”

Some roads in the area — including County Road 17, the main east-west route through Comfrey — were reported closed due to flooding on Saturday night.

"We're kinda in a holding pattern right now, just trying to get the water to not get any higher,” Richter told MPR News. “It's going to be a long haul, just waiting for the water to recede and then clean up."

Weather spotters reported more than 4 inches of rain from Saturday into early Sunday in parts of southern Minnesota. That was on top of several inches that fell last week.

All of that rain is now making its way into larger rivers that had previously been receding from early-spring crests.

New flood warnings are now in effect for stretches of the Minnesota, Cottonwood and Redwood rivers.

The National Weather Service reported the Minnesota River may climb later this week to moderate flood stage at Jordan, and minor flood stage at Mankato and Henderson. That potentially could prompt more closures of roads and highways near the river.

The Cottonwood River is forecast to reach moderate flood stage at New Ulm, and minor flooding is expected along the Redwood River at Redwood Falls.

After lingering rain moves out of the region on Sunday, drier conditions are expected in Minnesota for Monday and Tuesday. Find forecast details on MPR Weather’s Updraft blog.