Floodwaters swallow Zumbro Falls
ZUMBRO FALLS — By early Friday, the swollen Zumbro River had swallowed up the tiny city of Zumbro Falls.
"I didn't think it would get this high," Roger Luhmann said, standing on U.S. 63 while floodwaters surged around his partially submerged trailer-court home. "The water just kept rising. What are you going to do?"
By early Friday, the normally tame Zumbro River had become a sprawling, surging lake that had swallowed up the U.S. 63 bridge at Zumbro Falls. Propane tanks and other debris swept by. The city was deserted, with some residents ferried to higher ground by airboat, officials say.
People gathered at the edge of the water to snap pictures and gawk at the submerged city.
"(It's) total devastation," said Bonnie Buck, who lives four miles north of town. "I cried. These are friends in my community. I don't know how they are going to recover?"
The waters were still rising at Zumbro Falls in the early afternoon, but slowly.
Luhmann said he woke up at about 4 a.m. Friday and discovered water lapping up against the base of his home. By 6 a.m. the water was inside his house, and by mid-morning, floodwaters had engulfed more than half his home.
The flood also impacted his job. The gravel pit where he works — just across U.S. 63 from his home — was also submerged, with the top-half of a truck peeking out from the water.
"It's a bad deal," Luhmann said.
Friday also witnessed a dramatic rescue of horses owned by Lamar Johnson and his nephew, Matt Johnson. Wading through floodwaters up to their chests, the two were able to free up four horses that were tied up and surrounded by water.
At one point, Matt Johnson attempted to lead the horses through strong currents, but the horses pulled away and were pushed by currents downstream. But the horses manged to swim to ashore, where Perry Bartlett, Lamar Johnson's wife, caught hold of them.
Southeastern Minnesota is no stranger to devastating floods, but several Zumbro Falls and area residents said it was the worst they had ever witnessed. Giving the flood unusual strength and size was that both the of the Zumbro in the area were channeling floodwaters.
"I've never seen water like this," said Jim Baker, a long-time area resident. "Main Street's probably got 12 feet of water right now."
Joyce Greer said her husband began hauling things out of the house by early evening Thursday. By the time they left, the water had encircled their home and nearly reached the door. They sloshed through knee-deep water to get their vehicle.
Greer had taken a day off from work Friday so she could pack for a vacation trip to Salt Lake City. But those plans were likely to be canceled. Staring out over the vast body of water, Greer seemed preternaturally calm.
"There isn't much you can do about it," Greer said. "I guess we all knew it would happen some day. But you get pretty complacent, because it never has happened before."