Flooding here and gone

Published 5:00 pm Saturday, July 16, 2011

A man helps a stranded motorist stalled in rising waters on a side street next to Interstate 90, which was closed briefly Friday night due to flash flooding. - Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Heavy rains briefly close I-90 before subsiding

Flash flooding closed Interstate 90 and stranded a few motorists Friday before subsiding about as quickly as it arose.

A strong line of thunderstorms settled over southern Minnesota, causing heavy rains and flooding that was unexpected to many locals.

“You kept seeing a couple different rounds of storms move across the area,” National Weather Service meteorologist John Wetenkamp said.

Water innundates a short stretch of Interestate 90 through Austin near 11th Drive NE, effectively shutting down the interstate after rain drenched the area Friday evening. - Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

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Some of the heaviest rain fell in Dodge and Mower counties, where 2 to 5 inches of rain was reported in the span of a few hours.

“More than enough to create flash flooding concerns,” Wetenkamp said.

About 3.24 inches of rain fell in Austin, with higher amounts in select pockets, according to Wetenkamp.

The flooding briefly closed I-90 near 11th Drive NE between exit 179 and 178 Friday. Law enforcement officials reported street flooding, including on Interstate 90 and along Oakland Place SE near Driesner Park.

A few other minor street closures were reported, but most roads re-opened a short time later. A few people, including one pregnant woman, had to be rescued from fast-rising waters.

Wetenkamp said a front of very humid air caused the series of strong storms. Though the weather service expected the storms, Wetenkamp said it was difficult to predict where they’d hit. Along with torrential downpours, the storms also produced winds around 55 miles per hour.

A pair of cars are caught in rising waters just off the intersection of Oakland Avenue West and Fourth Street SW as rains pummel Austin Friday afternoon. - Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Though water levels rose quickly, the flooding had subsided by Saturday morning.

Torrential rain in a short span isn’t completely uncommon when the weather turns humid in the heart of summer, according to Wetenkamp.

“That happens quite a bit,” he said.

“We see that every year across our area,” he added.

By 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Turtle creek had reached 11.7 feet, already past the 10.5-foot flood stage. The Cedar River was expected to crest below the 15-foot flood stage at just under 10 feet.

The flooding was not completely finished by Saturday, however. Moderate flooding was expected, and Turtle Creek was under a flood warning until Sunday, with water levels expected to peak at about 12.2 feet.

Wetenkamp said the water levels were expected to peak Saturday afternoon, but any additional rain could quickly raise levels.

Jason Schoonover and Adam Harringa contributed to this story