“100 year flood” for the third time, Waterville declared disaster area following heavy rains and flooding

By: 
Jay Schneider, LRlife@frontiernet.net

Truck crossing on a bridge by the WEM High School.

For the third time in the last 10 years, the city of Waterville and surrounding areas have been deluged with excessive rainfall, causing the most prolific flood in the town’s history.

In 2014 the city received high waters which was considered the worst flood since 1965 when flood waters covered many of the downtown streets. In 2016 the city endured yet another massive rainfall which was nearly as bad as 2014. There was also some flooding in 2019.

Six weeks ago docks on Lake Sakatah and Tetonka were a couple of feet above the water. They are now many inches under water. And this flooding happened after very little snow fall this past winter, which had people questioning whether or not there would be a severe drought this spring and summer.

Since April 1, 19 inches of rain has fallen in Waterville and since June 1, nearly nine inches has fallen, causing the closure of streets and the sandbagging of dozens of homes.

The Waterville City Council, exactly 10 years to the day June 20, declared a proclamation the City of Waterville is a Local Emergency.

This declaration of a local emergency will invoke the city’s disaster plan. The portions that are necessary for response to and recovery from the emergency must be used.

Emergency personnel and hundreds of volunteers have been filling sandbags and delivering to residences in the community in hopes of stopping some of the water from entering homes. More than 15,000 sand bags (more than 500 tons of sand) have been filled and distributed. Bags will continue to be filled until there is no longer a need.

The wastewater treatment plant is currently being manned 24 hours a day. In an average day, 220,000 gallons flow through the plant. Last week this number reached 1,200,000 gallons. With portable pumps and back-up, the city is able to keep the plant running.

The city asks residents to limit their water usage if possible in order to keep excess water from running through the treatment plant.

There was little or no rain Wednesday and into Thursday, but the water levels continued to rise at more than four inches in 24 hours. With more rainfall Friday and into Saturday, the water levels rose more than 12 inches.

According to Le Sueur County Commissioner David Preisler, he has viewed numerous drone footage and he said there doesn’t seem to be any major blockage along the waterways. There was some minor debris removed by Rice County at the Narrows Bridge, on the far east side of Lake Sakatah.

No Wake restriction in place on local lakes

The Le Sueur County Sheriff’s Office has issued a “NO WAKE” restriction for the following Le Sueur County lakes: 

  • Lake Washington
  • Gorman Lake 
  • Lake Sakatah 
  • Lake Tetonka  

The restriction has been issued due to the abnormally high-water levels, which has created shoreline erosion concerns, submerged docks and excess debris in the lakes creating potential hazards.  

“NO WAKE” is defined as operation of a watercraft at the slowest speed possible to maintain steerage, but in no case greater than 5 mph. 

The Le Sueur County Sheriff’s Office will continually monitor lake levels and will issue notice as soon as the restriction is lifted.

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