‘Take it hour by hour’: Waterville residents and volunteers fight flooding, prepare for more rain

People help sand bag a house
Volunteers help sandbag Lyndsay Carlson’s house in Waterville as floodwaters rise on Friday.
Hannah Yang | MPR News

More than 150 people spent Friday filling sandbags and piling them around residences in Waterville. Some trudged through knee-high flood waters while others drove trucks to pick up more pallets. 

Lyndsay Carlson has lived in Waterville since 2017. She said she’s never seen flooding this severe before and worries about the incoming rainfall forecasted for the weekend. Volunteers piled sandbags around her house, and her family dug up the ground to help with the water. 

Sandbag piles
Piles of sandbags sit inside a bay at the city of Waterville’s Public Works building on Friday.
Hannah Yang | MPR News

“Praying that it doesn’t really come up to us,” Carlson said. “If we gotta go, we gotta go. But, we’re just kind of taking it basically hour by hour, and just praying for the rain to go away.”

More than 9,000 sandbags have been filled and placed around houses near the shoreline since Wednesday. About 150 volunteers helped with distributing the sandbags throughout town. Lines of cars waited outside of the city’s public works building to take the sandbags. 

Le Sueur County Emergency Management Director Tammy Stewig said Waterville is the most critically impacted by flooding. 

“The city is monitoring different locations in the area,” Stewig said. “They have an area they call the lagoons. They’re watching that very closely at this point. We have a plan if we need to evacuate, but we’re hoping we don’t have to.”

Much of southern Minnesota is on flood watch, shutting down highways and roads in the process. Some didn’t let that deter them from coming to help. Lori Underwood drove in from Waseca on Friday morning to help her friends sandbag their house in town.

People help sandbag someones home-1
More than 150 volunteers came to help sandbag Waterville residences along Lake Tetonka on Friday.
Hannah Yang | MPR News

“Whatever I can do to help the community and friends,” Underwood said. “I’ve seen a lot worse.”

Meanwhile, residents are focused on trying to get ahead of the flooding. Lyndsay Carlson said life still has to go on.

“I do have to work all weekend,” she said. “So, if anyone has a kayak, I’m gonna probably need one to get out of this town to get to work.”