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Truman inundated by rainfall; gas, power cut

September 24, 2010
Kylie Saari and Meg Alexander — Staff Writers

TRUMAN - Emergency personnel began going house to house after midnight Wednesday in Truman, checking homes for standing water from the heavy rain.

Officials shut off gas and power to homes as a safety precaution when water was detected in basements.

Soon, fire trucks were pumping water from the streets. The high school was surrounded by water, and sandbagging efforts began in an effort to slow the torrent.

Article Photos

Robin Wenzel, from left, Caleb Smith and Rodney Eckstrom go rafting along North First Avenue West Thursday afternoon in Truman.

By daylight, most of Truman was under water, an emergency command post had been established at the fire hall and the Red Cross set up an emergency shelter for residents in need.

The Martin County Sheriff's Department estimated rainfall of 8 to 11 inches, although that amount has not been confirmed.

Truman firefighter Tim Zehnder figured between 80 to 90 percent of Truman's residents had a foot of water or more in their basements. Police Chief Justin Jobe said some homes have as much as 6 to 8 feet, with water coming up to the first floor. Jobe said each home in Truman has been visited by emergency personnel.

Martin County Sheriff's Department issued an update later in the afternoon Thursday, stating a few homes had to be evacuated. Only 50 percent of Truman's streets were passable at that time.

Jobe said residents could be evacuated to a church in town or to Fairmont for shelter and food. Sewage backing into homes with the water is cause for health concern. Continuing rainfall has made planning for the town's recovery difficult.

Jobe said most of the town's north/south roads were completely impassable, and asked that people stay off the roads if possible.

"The waves caused by the cars is forcing the water back (into people's homes)," he said.

Zehnder said some of the flooding near the high school is caused by pumping efforts elsewhere in town. The pumps are sending water to the new drainage ditch on the south end of town, which is full. With the ground saturated, water was collecting around the school.

City Council members have been working on solutions to the city's drainage problem for years, and were in the process of beginning the next stage of a drainage project, which enlarges the drain capacity through and around the high school's parking lot.

Jobe requested residents leaving town report in at the command center with information on how they can be reached.

According to the Minnesota Office of Pipeline Safety, 300 natural gas meters in Truman were shut off because of flooding. Minnesota Energy Resources issued a statement Thursday requesting homeowners not turn on their gas or electricity once it has been turned off. The company said they will come around to turn gas on and re-light appliances when the flooding has gone down.


Just to the south, the small town of Northrop was fighting its own battle with the excessive rain water. A county road through Northrop was closed and barricaded Thursday, and the town's two parochial schools, St. James Lutheran and Martin Luther High School, were closed.

"The schools were dry but we couldn't have them using the restroom facilities," said Tom Koeritz, who serves on Northrop City Council. Koeritz, assistant public finance director for Fairmont, had not been to work Thursday, joining other Northrop residents in the effort to control flooding.

"Our lagoon pumps are keeping up," Koeritz said. "... But with all the water coming in ... the water has nowhere to go and it's coming up in people's basements."

The few houses with water damage had as much as 2 feet in their basements, according to Koeritz.

"We're in no way even close to the problems they have in Truman," he said.


Farther down Highway 15, Fairmont also missed much of the damage rain is causing in Truman.

"The most significant problem that we've experienced is ... inflow and infiltration at the water treatment plant," said Fairmont City Administrator Jim Zarling, referring to rain water infiltrating the wastewater system. "... Last night the water treatment plant reached maximum capacity."

The stormwater system, however, was holding up well. According to staff at the water treatment plant, the lake level jumped from 7 3/4 on Wednesday to 20 1/2 inches Thursday.

"We have some yards with standing water, but not many reports of water in basements," Zarling said.

The city issued a statement Thursday requesting residents limit water use to a minimum. Many other cities in the county made the same request, according to the Sheriff's Department.

Zarling said that by today, the voluntary water limit should end for Fairmont.

"If we don't get much more heavy rain from this current round of storms, we should be OK," he said. "... If that last band had moved 4-5 miles south, it would have been a whole lot worse for us. ... We're extremely fortunate."



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