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Southwest Minnesota experiences near-record flooding

City of Windom employees sandbag one block north of the Island Park entrance in Windom Sunday afternoon in an attempt to prevent water damage to structures due to recent flooding. (Alyssa Sobotka / Forum News Service)1 / 6
Sand piled near the entrance of Island Park in Windom in an attempt to minimize flooding damage inhibits through traffic. (Alyssa Sobotka / Forum News Service)2 / 6
The head of a windmill lawn ornament at a residence on Lutefisk Lane in Windom is the only aspect left visible, as the Des Moines River floods the windmill's regular backyard residency. (Alyssa Sobotka / Forum News Service)3 / 6
The Windom Country Club experiences significant flooding from the Des Moines River. (Alyssa Sobotka / Forum News Service) 4 / 6
The baseball fields and amentities at Island Park in Windom sit in a pool of Des Moines River water Sunday afternoon as a result of recent significant flooding. (Alyssa Sobotka / Forum News Service)5 / 6
Minnesota Congressman Colin Peterson and Sen. Amy Klobuchar visit Island Park and other areas throughout Windom to see firsthand the result of recent flooding. (Alyssa Sobotka / Forum News Service)6 / 6

WINDOM, Minn. — One more rainfall event could push the Des Moines River to a level this community hasn't experienced in nearly 50 years.

That's one of the most recent concerns shared by Windom-area officials and emergency response teams, as the river crested to 23.37 feet early Sunday, a level just shy of 24.7 feet — the highest river level recorded in 1969.

"We're not actually receding — we're holding our own," Windom Mayor Dominic Jones said. "Anticipating this, we're looking at four to five days of continued status about where we're at."

As of Sunday morning, July 8, two Windom residences had voluntarily evacuated, Jones reported.

The flooding, Jones and Cottonwood County Emergency Manager Paul Johnson said, is due to the combination of a June 20-21 rainfall event in Windom and the Des Moines River upstream — particularly where it rises at Lake Shetek in Murray County.

Despite not quite reaching the threshold of 1969, recent rainfall from mid-June to now has already caused millions of dollars in damages, as Minnesota politicians witnessed Sunday during a tour of Windom, Tracy and New Ulm communities.

In Windom, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, U.S. Rep. Colin Peterson, District 22 Sen. Bill Weber and District 22B Rep. Rod Hamilton surveyed flood damage throughout the river city Sunday morning. The tour highlighted Quevli Avenue, Perkins Creek, River Road and Island Park, where Klobuchar called the underwater baseball fields, swimming pool and park symbolic of the overall flood damage.

"We're pretty confident that we're going to meet the federal threshold as a state," said Klobuchar about her confidence that Minnesota communities would qualify for flood assistance from Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state.

FEMA would pay for 75 percent and the state 25 percent of repairs necessary to public infrastructure beyond the $7.7 million qualifying threshold, Klobuchar explained.

"So that means it won't be local taxpayers paying for the infrastructure," she added.

That lifted burden will likely be of value, as many residents will have financial obligations related to personal property damage — as damp mattresses, sandbag piles and steady flow of water from sub pumps illustrated Sunday.

Windom and Cottonwood County officials declared a state of emergency on June 22, as rainfall causing washed-out roads, culverts and field drainage had likely already exceeded the threshold, Johnson explained.

As of Friday morning, Johnson reported that initial damage estimates were at $122,000, but expected estimates could double or triple within next week due to expected continuous floodwaters from the Lake Shetek area.

Cottonwood County is one of 36 counties given a state of emergency declaration by Gov. Mark Dayton.

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