Medford under water
The Medford area was hit by a devastating surge of floodwaters this last week. After heavy rains struck Southern Minnesota, many of the communities around the area were covered in inches, if not feet of rain or river water.
Sandbagging took place Thursday in Medford, with the Medford Fire Department leading the charge to stop the rising water from ruining homes and businesses. “We want to give our fire department kudos.” Mayor Lois Nelson said. “Our guys had been monitoring the water all through the night.”
City administrator Andy Welti called to give the mayor an update about the condition of the wastewater plant outside of Medford in the early hours of Wednesday morning. This concern had been weighing on everyone’s minds, because if the plant was to overflow, the town would have a very messy and difficult clean-up ahead of them. But good news came from Welti, as the water is close to the plant but there hasn’t been any inside of it. “That’s our most expensive investment right there. If that went underwater, that would really be a messy operation.” The mayor remarked, looking in concern at how close the water was to the plant walls.
Rick Hager, fire chief, was also out making rounds and checking on water levels as well.
Schools were closed Thursday morning. Students, and school faculty were encouraged to come and help fill sandbags. The fire department had already begun to set up stations to begin assembling the sandbags. “There were four young guys here. I remarked that I was glad to see part of the football team here, and one of them turned around and said ‘I’m with cross country!’” Mayor Nelson said with a laugh.
The sense of community pride in Medford seems to be very strong, as Nelson retells the events of Thursday. “The community is so supportive of one another. We’ve all learned that if you take care of each other, everything will turn out all right. We had around 150 people here to help sandbagging. People were coming from all over, even Faribault, to help. Whenever you’d see people wearing clean clothes arrive to help, it was such a relief.”
The support of the area was clearly felt as there were participants from kindergarten all the way to adults volunteering to help fill and place the sandbags. “I was teasing one of the children helping, and I said ‘This is quite the way to get out of school!’ The boy turned around and very seriously said, ‘Oh, no, I’m helping my community.” Nelson remembers. “That made me think that this is really the point of why we’re all here, for the community.” There was even an international flavor, as two foreign exchange students from Spain and Germany were there pitching in as well. The community made several thousand sand bags over the day, helping to stay the floodwaters in many residents’ homes.
Even the new business in the area helped with flood relief. The new Casey’s gas station donated 20 pizzas for the sandbagging crews to eat. The Salvation Army and Red Cross were also called in, as per the orders of the city’s disaster relief plan. The Red Cross helped by bringing in 250 McDonald’s cheeseburgers for the hard workers. “The response system that Steele County has is awesome. They have practice sessions for handling these types of things. It’s a nice reassuring machine, if you will, to make sure that things get done.”
“I woke up in the middle of the night, and thought ‘Oh, my! I bet the picnic tables in the park are gone!’” Nelson said, shaking her head. This has happened before in the flood of 2010, as the Straight River park itself is built on a flood plain, according to a study by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Straight River park has also flooded in 2014. The park is going to be a massive clean-up of its own, according to the mayor. “We’re now dealing with contaminated soils and mulches. Everything is going to have to be taken out, cleaned and new things put in.”
Most of the water that caused all of this damage was not from the rains, but from all of the rivers that flow through Medford. “Usually we count on everything from Hope, which is south of Owatonna, to come flooding up the Straight River. But this time, we also have all of the Crane Creek water coming from Waseca. There’s a small lake where the creek should be, and of course all of that flows into the Straight. It’s what is causing both Medford and Faribault to flood as much as they are.”
If anyone is interested in volunteering with flood clean up, they are asked to contact City Administrator Andy Welti.