Storm Damage

Multiple branches from a tree broke off from a storm Saturday, July 20, 2019, on 15th Avenue Northeast in Rochester. (Andrew Link / alink@postbulletin.com)

The wet and wild summer of 2019 pounded out another crescendo Saturday with heavy rain and strong winds that caused street flooding and power outages across the region.

A first line of storms moved through the Rochester area at about 8 a.m., followed by a second cluster of storms that arrived in downtown Rochester shortly after 11 a.m.

Anywhere from 2 to 6 inches of rain fell across Dodge and Olmsted counties, starting at 6 a.m., according to the National Weather Service. A flash flood warning was in effect for both counties until 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

On Saturday afternoon, the National Weather Service also declared a flood warning along the Whitewater River near Whitewater State Park, where the river had come within 5 inches of the flood stage, 13.5 feet. The river was expected to rise to 14.6 feet this afternoon, then subside this evening. The flood warning is in effect until 5:20 p.m.

A malfunction in the warning siren system at city parks resulted in a steady wail for several minutes, rather than a voice warning advising anyone in the parks to take shelter, said Ken Jones, director of emergency management for the city.

"We are looking into the failure," Jones said in an e-mail. The warning system was activated to warn of high winds. "It was not a tornado," he said.

Those high winds, with gusts reported at 60 to 65 mph by the National Weather Service, caused trees and branches to come down, in some cases taking power lines down with them. The result was a busy morning for public safety crews, Jones said.

Rochester Public Utilities reported that all RPU employees were called in to try to get power back to affected customers. At its peak, more than 5,000 customers were without power, according to RPU. By 2:30 p.m., some 3,300 customers were still without power, according to the utility.

At least a half-dozen streets were blocked or partially blocked by felled trees as a result of the first round of storms, he said. Crews were even busier after the second line of storms moved through the area.

Three Olmsted County highways were reported closed due to flooding: County Road 105 between County Roads 4 and 103; County Road 101 from 36th Avenue to a point 500 feet east; and County Road 3 from U.S. Highway 14 to Seventh Street Northwest.

In Rochester, a tree was reported to be on fire in the vicinity of 65th Street and 60th Avenue Northwest, and there were numerous calls to authorities to report downed power lines in both the city and county.

Power outages shut down traffic signals at some locations in the city. In northwest Rochester, 55th Street Northwest near Lincolnshire Park was flooded and impassable at one point.

As of 1 p.m. Saturday, the South Branch of the Middle Fork of the Zumbro River near Oxbow Park, which flooded the park three weeks ago, was at 25.95 feet, just 2 feet below flood stage, and rising, according to the National Weather Service office in La Crosse, Wis.

In the area, firefighters in Pine Island were buffeted by heavy rain and wind as they battled a late-morning fire that started in a garage and moved to the adjacent home.

As the storms moved east, the Rushford Fire Department was called out to assist with moving people attending the Rushford Days festival to shelter.

In fact, the weather caused havoc with most planned outdoor activities. The Castle Community Luau in Rochester, which was to be held outside, was moved indoors. At the Living History Fair at the History Center of Olmsted County, the re-enactment of the Civil War Battle of Franklin was canceled and rescheduled for Sunday.

At the AMA Motocross Pro Nationals near Millville, Saturday's races were delayed several hours by the heavy rain. Because of the muddy conditions, the steep hills were removed from the course, according to the race website.

Meanwhile, authorities had to delay for some hours Saturday morning the search for a Rochester man missing since Thursday and presumed to have gone into Bear Creek in southeast Rochester. The missing man, identified as 46-year-old Andrew Nevenheim, took his dog for a walk Thursday evening and never returned home. The dog and Nevenheim's bicycle were found a short time later near Seventh Street Southeast at Bear Creek.

Authorities were searching the South Fork of the Zumbro River through the city to Silver Lake.

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Life Reporter

Tom covers primarily arts and entertainment for the Post Bulletin and 507 Magazine. He also often writes feature stories about local history. He is a native of Milwaukee, WI, and enjoys reading and traveling.