Flooding forces Wis. city to evacuate downtown

Published 11:27 am Thursday, September 23, 2010

Associated Press

ARCADIA, Wis.  — A powerful storm drenched parts of the upper Midwest on Thursday, flooding creeks and rivers and forcing up to 1,500 residents of one Wisconsin city to evacuate their homes for higher ground.

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Police officers in Arcadia, a town of 2,500 residents 100 miles southeast of Minneapolis, began going door-to-door in the rain early Thursday to urge residents to flee rising floodwater, City Clerk Angela Berg said. Up to 1,500 residents were being asked to take shelter on higher ground. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

The Trempealeau County Sheriff’s Department said the evacuation was mandatory.

Downtown Arcadia, which sits along the swollen Trempealeau River, has been swamped with up to 3 feet of water and two highways into town have been closed, authorities said. Berg said Myers Valley Creek and Turton Creek overflowed.

Wisconsin activated its Emergency Operations Center and sent a representative to the area, and the National Guard sent three trucks to Arcadia to help with evacuation efforts.

Eva Anderson, who heads the city’s parks and recreation department, said she was worried about her 82-year-old mother, whose house was in the middle of the flooding.

“I’d like to get her out of there because she’d be a little bit scared. I just think she’ll be startled when she gets up and sees water around her house,” Anderson said.

Residents were being evacuated to the Holy Family Catholic Church. Classes were canceled Thursday.

About 85 miles west in Owatonna, Minn., flooding along Maple Creek forced the evacuation of fewer than 10 homes, Steele County emergency management director Mike Johnson said. More than 6 inches of rain had fallen in the area by Thursday morning.

Heavy rain pounded the southern part of the state overnight, dropping up to 9 inches in some places, forcing some school closures and threatening to overwhelm some water treatment plants.

Rain was expected to fall throughout the region on Thursday. Johnson said there were reports of heavy flooding in several nearby cities, including Medford, Blooming Prairie and Ellendale. Several roads were closed in Steele County, and sandbagging crews were deployed throughout the region.

In nearby Mapleton, which 8 inches of rain had fallen by morning, sewage systems had backed-up in several homes, Blue Earth County officials said.

In Fairmont, Public Works Director Troy Nemmers said city officials were asking residents to restrict their water usage to take pressure off the wastewater treatment plant. But he said there was no threat, yet, to the city’s drinking water system.

The southeast Minnesota chapter of the American Red Cross was preparing to call in volunteers and open shelters as the rains kept falling Thursday morning.

“We are anticipating that we are going to be busy,” said Melanie Tschida, the chapter’s executive director. “It’s pretty likely that in some of this communities we are going to see some flooding.”