YOU ASKED COLUMN September's flood on a par with '78

Dear Top Ape: I'm sure you can skin this one pretty fast because it's timely and pertinent to a vast crowd. How high did the water get at the power dam on Lake Zumbro on Sept. 16? How does that compare to the highest back in 1978? Rumor has it, they were similar. If so, it's a good indication of how well the flood-control program worked for Rochester and how people downstream need to plan for the future.

And for a bonus …; how many boats, jet skis and docks went over the dam during the high water around Sept. 16? -- Knee-deep

The top of the Lake Zumbro Dam, northeast of Oronoco, is 920 feet above sea level. On Sept. 16, after the Rochester area received about 5 inches of rain, water was roaring over the dam at 925.4 feet.

That's about the same level as during the July 1978 flood that swamped Rochester, killed five people and caused an estimated $75 million in damage. That storm dumped 7 inches of rain. The flood led to construction of the $115 million flood-control project, which was completed in 1995.

Actually, the highest water level ever recorded at the dam wasn't in 1978, though. It was on July 22, 1951, when the river was two feet higher than on the 16th.


Did the flood-control project worked as designed? Sure, which means people downstream get the water faster. But would Rochester have had a devastating flood without the project? You'd have to compare a lot of squishy, water-logged factors from 1978 to 2004 to answer that.

To give you a sense of how much water was going over the dam on the 16th, the normal flow over the spillway in September is 100 cubic feet per second, says Julie Moenck of Rochester Public Utilities. On the 16th, it was nearly 21,000 cubic feet per second.

And yes, Knee-deep, there was a heckuva lot of flotsam below the dam after the storm. According to RPU notes, debris included "trash barrels, tires, canoes and miscellaneous marine equipment."

If a person was flooded out of his home last month and can't reoccupy it, does he lose residency for voting in the November election?

Yes, that's another flood-related hassle. If your home is damaged by flood, fire, 2-year-olds, whatever, and you don't intend to return to the home after it's rebuilt or repaired, you need to start over in establishing residency.

The good news is, in Minnesota it's not that hard to demonstrate residency. Pay a call on your county election officials to learn more, or go on the Web to

Dear Mr. Answer Man, we love your column! Recently, my mother read Tom Brokaw's memoir "A Long Way Home" and noticed several mentions of Rochester, including Mr. Brokaw's memories of dating a nursing student. Does anyone know who this woman is, if she still lives in this area? -- Your dedicated reader and her mother

Obviously we need to make your mother a dedicated reader of this column as well. One way to do this would be to identify Brokaw's long-ago Rochester sweetheart.


Tips, anyone?

If elected as a write-in candidate, the Answer Man will not serve -- his readers already win by a landslide every Monday and Thursday. Send your questions to or by snail to P.O. Box 6118, Rochester, MN 55903.

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