More torrential rain, flooding hit southern Clayton County

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The hot and humid weather last week spawned severe storms that rolled through Clayton County, again inundating the area with heavy rains. Above, a birds-eye view of Turkey River at Millville shows the extent of flooding caused by thunderstorms on July 21-22. At the left is the Highway 52 bridge spanning the Turkey River. The drone photo is courtesy of Stacey Schmelzer. On Wednesday, July 19, a severe storm spawned an EF1 tornado at McGregor and caused property damage elsewhere throughout the county. On Friday and Saturday, July 21-22, the clouds again opened up, dumping in excess of seven inches in the same areas that received approximately 10 inches on July 11-12. See more photos inside and visit The Guttenberg Press on Facebook. (Photo submitted)

By Shelia Tomkins

Mother Nature delivered another one-two punch to Clayton County last week in the form of severe storms and torrential rains on Wednesday, July 19, and Friday, July 21.

The severe weather came on the heels of a storm system that delivered 10+ inches of rain in southern Clayton County on July 11-12.

The storm on Wednesday, July 19, arrived in Guttenberg shortly after 6 p.m., bringing high winds that toppled trees, damaged property and downed power lines. Heavy rain accompanied the storm. McGregor suffered severe damage when that same storm system spawned an EF1 tornado that destroyed many businesses and homes along the community's main street and knocked out electric service for several days.

On Friday in Clayton County, saturated ground from earlier storms could not absorb a new round of extremely heavy rainfall, leading to run-off that flooded streams, caused rock and mud slides and damaged property.

In Guttenberg, according to the National Weather Service, nearly 7½ inches of rain fell in a 24-hour period from noon Friday to noon Saturday. 

Some of the heaviest damage came from overnight flooding in the Miner's Creek area just west of town. Emergency crews were called out in the night to clear debris from the Garber Road bridge at the bottom of Cemetery Hill.  Campers at Miner's Creek Campground had to scramble to safety as waters rose. 

Traffic was closed over the heavily-damaged Garber Road bridge until a professional assessment of its safety could be made on Saturday. The bridge was reopened later that day with parts of the deck shored up by gravel. The bridge had been scheduled for major renovation with bids scheduled to be taken in October and work to begin next spring.

Lyle Sargent, who resides along Miner's Creek Road, said the flooding was the most severe he can remember. "I've been here since 1970 and that's the highest I've ever seen," he said. The heavy rain destroyed a 30-ft. retaining wall on his property, but he reports others along that road suffered more serious damage. In a strange coincidence, Lyle's son, Dennis, was interviewed by TV reporters last week about flooding at his home in Osterdock. This week, it was Lyle's turn to speak on camera about the Miner's Creek flooding.  

At Guttenberg Bait and Tackle, located just south of the intersection of Garber Road and Highway 52, owner Rich Bliss had two feet of muddy water from Miner's Creek leave its mark on the building. Murray's Outdoor Store, in the same location, lost most of its plant inventory.

The Canadian Pacific railway track was undercut by flooding water from Miner's Creek, which empties into the Mississippi River just east of Highway 52 on the south edge of town. Saturday morning crews worked to stabilize the track there.  

Traffic on Highway 52 leading  into Guttenberg was temporarily closed  on the north and south hills in the overnight hours on as crews dealt with rocks, mud slides and trees on the road. Water and debris covered the highway at the bottom of the north hill, and the road by Nordic Forge was underwater at one point. City workers, fire and police departments and others worked Friday evening through Saturday morning to clean up debris and  restore services. Black Hills Energy temporarily shut off natural gas service to impacted customers. Guttenberg Mayor Russ Loven commended all who reponded to the situation for going "above the call of duty" during the storm (see Mayor's Message on page 3). 

Volga and Turkey Rivers

While damage from the July 11-12 torrential rainfall was caused in most part by flooding from run-off, the storms on Friday evening impacted the Turkey River watershed, causing major flooding in communities as the crest moved downstream.

Volga was hit hard when five to seven inches of rain fell into the Volga River watershed July 21-22. Portions of the community were evacuated in the middle of the night. At Littleport, the Volga River went over an earthen dam early Saturday morning.

The Volga River joins the Turkey River north of Elkport-Garber,  and its swollen waters led to extreme flash flooding there. River levels rose an amazing 16 feet  in Garber in less than 24 hours. At Garber a crest of 23.75-ft. was recorded on Saturday with a secondary crest of 23 feet on Sunday. Flood stage there is 17-ft.

Further downstream, pumps in Osterdock were once again called into service as residents dealt rainfall run-off, road wash-outs and other damage. The Turkey River began to rise, reaching a crest (when)

At Millville, the Turkey was out of its banks over the weekend, flooding bottomland along Highway 52.

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