Heavy rain leads to road closures in central Minnesota

Published 9:58 am Friday, August 12, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS — Heavy rain dumped several inches of water in parts of central Minnesota on Wednesday night and early Thursday, leaving some streets in Willmar swamped and city officials asking residents to limit their water use.

Official totals from the National Weather Service show Olivia and Willmar saw the most rain, nearly 9 inches and about 8 inches, respectively.

“We had one report that said about 5 inches of that fell in about two hours,” National Weather Service meteorologist Michelle Margraf said. “When you get that kind of tropical rain, it can’t run off fast enough.”

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Some unofficial rain reports had totals as high as 12 inches in Willmar, city director of Public Works Sean Christensen said.

“If you talk to the experienced, or old-timers here, nobody’s ever seen it rain quite like this in that short of time,” Christensen said.

He said some intersections remained underwater Thursday and could be impassable for a couple of days. With more rain in the forecast, the National Weather Service said a flash flood watch would be in effect south of a line from Willmar to Red Wing through Thursday night.

Some motorists were stranded in the initial flooding, and there were reports of basement collapses in Willmar and Olivia. Several people had called to report basements were flooded by either rain or sewer backups.

Christensen said Willmar’s wastewater treatment plant was overwhelmed, and residents were asked to voluntarily limit their water use until further notice. Residents were also asked to stay home and avoid flooded roads.

“I’m afraid people were praying for a little bit of rain too much and it all got here all of a sudden,” Christensen said.