WASECA, Minn. - Most days, Waseca, Minnesota is not known as a seaside town.
But Thursday.... is definitely not like 'most days.'
A powerful storm system that crawled across parts of the state Wednesday night into Thursday dropped a deluge on the southeast Minnesota community. The rains brought the two-day moisture total to 14 inches, flooding dozens of county roads, filling basements and triggering the cancelation of school. Pictures show Waseca's middle school virtually unreachable due to the ocean that floods the parking lot. The Waseca High School athletic field is completely underwater, forcing the cancelation of tonight's girls soccer game (and likely many events to come).
At a press conference Thursday morning emergency management officials detailed the damage to home foundations and roads. Highway 14 is closed in spots between Waseca and Janesville, and more than 40 separate spots on the county's 400 miles of road are impassable. Motorists are being warned not to drive on flood-covered roads as some spots are completely washed out.
The Waseca public works director says municipal water is currently safe to drink, and told reporters that city crews are pumping water from the sanitary sewer lines into storm sewers, so raw sewage does not back up into the basements of residents. He also cautioned those with three to four feet of water in their basements not to pump them out right now, as pressure from water outside the home could cause foundations to collapse.
Pictures of the Waseca Community Ice Arena are enough to send chills down the spines of hockey families. Reports say six to eight inches of water sit on the ice surface, just days before youth hockey season was officially set to begin.
The Waseca County Sheriff's department confirms a number of residents were forced to evacuate their homes overnight due to flooding, and many who didn't have to flee are still pumping out basements filled with rain and runoff.
Waseca is about 75 miles south of the Twin Cities.
A bit northeast, overnight rains have pushed the Zumbro River to its highest level since the destructive floods of 2010. According to the National Weather Service, the North Fork of the Zumbro River crested at a record level of 23.38 ft.
Water took over Riverside Park in Wanamingo. Flooding also forced the town to turn the power off at its wastewater plant.
"We had to move some loose items there and then keep water out of our main control building. And we had to shut power down to it so we didn't electrocute anybody," said Michael Boulton, city administrator of Wanamingo.
And in the town of St. Clair, firefighters, city workers and residents have been filling sandbags where the rising Le Sueur River threatens wastewater treatment facilities and several homes.
Nearly 7 inches of rain fell on the area Wednesday, and The Free Press of Mankato reports the problems there are likely to grow as the river rises in the coming days. The Le Sueur River starts to the east, near the Waseca area, which had 14 inches of rain in 48 hours, and that water will flow toward St. Clair.
Public Works Supervisor Thad Baker says the biggest concern is water coming over a permanent earthen dike and getting into the treatment plant's lift station. If the lift station gets flooded, he says, sewage will back up into homes.