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Floodwaters recede in Randall, but neighborly goodwill remains

Businesses like Boone’s Market grocery store and community gathering places like St. James Catholic Church provided food and water to needy residents. Morrison County Sheriff Shawn Larsen said a man stopped by the Randall Fire Hall to offer a donation to support ongoing relief.

Flooding in Randall after rainfall
Highway 10 outside of Randall reopened between Motley and Little Falls to most lanes of travel on Sunday, June 26, 2022, after 12.3 inches of rain fell Thursday night in the central Minnesota town.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
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RANDALL — As the weekend wore on in the city of Randall, the waters of the Little Elk River — overwhelmed by more than a foot of rainfall in a four- to six-hour span Thursday night, June 23 — continued to recede.

The care and attention of city staff members, emergency responders and neighbors did not, however, as the city of about 600 residents watched the floodwaters dwindle and sought to pick up the pieces.

“Little communities like that, everybody bands together in support,” said Randall Mayor Danny L. Noss by phone Sunday. “We had plenty of support, we had plenty of people, you know, that would volunteer to come and do sandbags.”

Flooding in Randall after rainfall
A skid-loader operator drives a pallet of sandbags to waiting workers, who were shoring up the city of Randall's well from floodwaters Friday, June 24, 2022. The central Minnesota city received 12.3 inches of rain Thursday night, causing the swollen Little Elk River to top its banks.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Noss said he spent time driving around the city and stopping to talk to homeowners affected by the high water, letting them know city officials were concerned, sharing bottled water if they needed it and ensuring they knew of relief efforts underway.

Another inch and a half of rain fell on the city Friday night, but Noss said it didn’t seem to have much of an effect on the already swollen river. City staff, including street and water personnel, spent much of the weekend at city hall, Noss said.

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With the potential for more heavy rain Friday night, the mayor said emergency personnel were in the process of recommending others in the city to consider leaving their at-risk homes. The sheriff’s office also advised those who’ve left their homes to avoid returning to them until it is safe to do so, and the public was also asked to stay away from the Randall area so emergency personnel could do their jobs effectively.

“They probably didn’t get much sleep the whole weekend because they were there,” he said. “They were there all day Friday … most of Friday night, all day Saturday. They finally went home today. And even this morning, the two personnel in the water department and the streets, they were there.”

Businesses like Boone’s Market grocery store and community gathering places like St. James Catholic Church provided food and water to needy residents. Morrison County Sheriff Shawn Larsen said a man stopped by the Randall Fire Hall to offer a donation to support ongoing relief.

“I asked this gentleman if he was from the Randall area and he told me that he was from Brainerd, but he passes through Randall a lot and he loves the city and everything it stands for,” Larsen wrote in a Facebook post. “This gentleman was directed to the city hall and he later gave a $500 dollar donation.

“This is a reminder that there are still great people out there in this world. Good hearted caring people who put others first before themselves. We thank the good Lord for people like this! May God bless you and everyone affected by the flooding.”

Flooding in Randall after rainfall
An intersection by the OK Tire Store in Randall remains flooded Friday, June 24, 2022, after 12.3 inches of rain fell Thursday night in the city. Residents of the central Minnesota city were dealing with flooding along the Little Elk River, which runs through the town.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Marvin Hoheisel, who owns the Randall Car Wash and Laundromat on Superior Avenue, closed his 24-hour business Friday and much of the day Saturday. Hoheisel said while the laundromat itself was not in danger of flooding, impacts on the city’s water infrastructure as well as unknowns associated with electrical connections made it safer for him to close.

But after discussions with city officials Saturday night, Hoheisel got the green light to reopen and provide a place for people to do their laundry — of which there likely is more than usual for some residents, particularly if their laundry machines at home are in basements still impacted by flooding. About 30 homes in the city were evacuated by emergency personnel during the early morning hours Friday, after the first 911 calls reporting flooding came in at 2:44 a.m.

“About 6:30 yesterday (Saturday) we opened back up, so people could, of course, do their blankets and wet stuff or whatever,” Hoheisel said Sunday evening. “And now that everybody’s starting to back — they just are letting people back into their houses now. There’s a lot of laundry.”

Hoheisel said he was impressed by the leadership of city officials throughout the flood response, particularly City Manager Matt Pantzke.

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“Matt Pantzke is a maverick, and what he’s done for the city and how he kept everybody informed and ran things — I’ll tell you what, that guy needs a pat on the back, because he is the best city manager I’ve ever seen,” Hoheisel said.

In an emergency meeting Saturday, the Randall City Council met to support a disaster declaration signed by Noss, with an evaluation of the damages expected early this week. A post on the city’s Facebook page noted emergency management staff members from Morrison County were expected to request the Morrison County Board declare a state of emergency based on the severe weather and damages throughout the county.

Craig Schmidt, senior service hydrologist with the National Weather Service in the Twin Cities, said the amount of rainfall Randall received Thursday night into Friday morning represents a 500-year event. This means there’s about a 0.2% chance of it happening, based on historical data.

An overhead view of flooded streets in the city of Randall
A drone photo taken by the Morrison County Sheriff's Office shows the extent of flooding in the city of Randall after the Little Elk River ran over its banks following historic rainfall Thursday, June 23, 2022.
Contributed

A spotter for the Minnesota State Climatologist’s Office reported their 11-inch rain gauge in nearby Cushing overflowed, Schmidt said, and a spotter for a television news station reported 12.35 inches of rainfall near Randall.

Roads previously closed began opening back up Saturday and Sunday. Highway 10, closed between Motley and Little Falls all day Friday and much of the rest of the weekend, was partially reopened. One westbound lane and both eastbound lanes were available for travel as of Sunday night. The other westbound lane remained water-covered, however, and motorists were advised to reduce speeds, use caution and obey road signs in the area. Dove Road, otherwise known as County Road 1 between Pillager and Randall, also reopened, along with most city streets.

Despite road closures, one frustration experienced by responders was drivers who ignored the signs, seemingly to gawk at the flooding in the city.

Overhead view of flooded areas around the city of Randall
A drone photo taken by the Morrison County Sheriff's Office on Friday, June 24, 2022, shows areas around the railroad tracks flooded by the Little Elk River in the city of Randall.
Contributed

“We had more people in town on Saturday than we had last year, going around the barriers,” Noss said. “We even had one person that killed their car trying to go through the water. Luckily, the police were there and gave them a ticket. That was the most aggravating thing of it is people just don’t think those barriers mean anything.”

Noss said most businesses are reopened, some with drying basements but otherwise relatively unscathed. He said most homes did not sustain first-level damage, although many residents were dealing with flooded basements ranging from inches to feet of unwelcome water.

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One thing’s for sure — the city of Randall still intends to celebrate Independence Day in style. Noss said the planned celebrations set for this upcoming Saturday are expected to go on, including a parade through town, a DJ in the park from noon to 4 p.m. and a street dance from 8 p.m. to midnight. The Randall Cubs baseball team is also set to play a game Saturday afternoon.

“We need to get things back to normal,” Noss said.

Assisting the sheriff’s office with flood response were fire departments from Randall, Little Falls, Camp Ripley, Scandia Valley, Pierz, Swanville, Upsala and Flensburg; Minnesota State Patrol, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Department of Transportation, BNSF Railway, Pipeline Safety, Todd County Sheriff’s Office, American Red Cross, Morrison County Public Works, Morrison County Land Services, Morrison County Emergency Management, Morrison County Public Health and Mayo Clinic Ambulance.

CHELSEY PERKINS, community editor, may be reached at 218-855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at twitter.com/DispatchChelsey .

Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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