The coffee is on in Zumbro Falls

ZUMBRO FALLS, Minn. - Signs of recovery are sprouting in Zumbro Falls.

ZUMBRO FALLS, Minn. - Signs of recovery are sprouting in Zumbro Falls.

The 6:30 a.m. coffee crew is back at Falls Standard, the BP gas station on Highway 63. The store opened Nov. 7, just six weeks after a September flood devastated the community. Groceries were on the shelf, with more being stocked. A couple refrigeration units and a little computer work remained to get the convenience store and auto shop completely up and running.

"It's great working here and hearing the people talk about how great it is to be back," said employee Kara Wallerich.

Owner Fran Graves said it felt "good, very good," to have the store and shop back. Business was getting better every day as more people learned he was open, he said.

Just across the parking lot, the doors were open at the Zumbro Falls Veterinary Clinic. Inside, veterinarian Sarah Mehrkens was painting the trim on a door and her cousin, Jessie Milliken, was vacuuming.


Veterinarian assistant Heather Heddlesten was on the telephone with clients. Smells of freshly stained and varnished woodwork and paint filled the air.

Mehrkens performed four cat surgeries at the clinic on Nov. 9, the first at the clinic since floodwaters forced her to relocate to her home garage.

On Nov. 10, she officially re-opened the clinic located along Highway 63 just underneath the outdoor sign advertising the Zumbro Falls Golf Club.

"It's awesome" to be back, Mehrkens said. It was the little things like getting a cappuccino in the morning, picking up a loaf of bread on the way home and scheduling an oil change at Falls Standard that made her life seem somewhat normal again.

There's other signs of life in town as well.

Valley Bodywerx along Main Street is open for business. City Hall was repaired in time for the Nov. 2 election. The parking spots along Main Street were filled.

But the spots aren't filled with the people who live in Zumbro Falls, Milliken said. The vehicles belong to construction workers who are rebuilding the town.

Milliken lost her home in the flood. Eight feet of water flooded her house, filling the basement and coming onto the main floor.


She lived on the second floor and is grateful and thankful she didn't lose her clothing or furniture, but she lost a place to live.

"We tried to save it," she said.

Everyday, they'd open the doors and turn on barn fans in an attempt to dry out the building. It wouldn't dry. Instead, the floor buckled from all the moisture.

She moved to Zumbrota, but comes to Zumbro Falls every school day to drop her son off to catch the Lake City school bus. She plans to move him to the Zumbrota-Mazeppa School District.

Her mother, who owns the building in which Milliken lived, has been attending all the meetings and talking with city officials. They didn't have flood insurance and rebuilding doesn't seem likely at this point.

Instead, Milliken said, they'll probably take a buyout. That's probably in their best interest, she said.

Buyouts involve a state mitigation program funded partially through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and are coordinated with local input, said Leo Skinner, FEMA external affairs officer for the September 2010 floods.

If officials in Zumbro Falls decide to go with buyouts, they have to prepare documents and provide them to the state, he said.


While she sees more activity in town, Milliken said it's not her friends who used to gather at Scooter's. It's not how it was before the flood.

"It will never be back to normal ever," she said.

What To Read Next
Get Local