MOOSE LAKE, Minn. - The main pump used to move sewage and displace water in the northeast Minnesota town of Moose Lake failed Thursday afternoon, making a dire flooding situation even worse.
Residents were sandbagging furiously but were unable to keep the rising waters of the Moose Horn river at bay. They overcame the man-made barrier and swamped the pump, causing it to falter.
The pump provided sewage service to town residents and to the Moose Lake Correctional facility, which houses 1200 medium security inmates and 500 habitual sex offenders.
Police chief Bryce Bogenholm says after several hours, a back up pump arrive and is now sustaining the situation. The city also received another shipment of sandbags from Arden Hills. Safety officials have shut down travel on local roads. Chief Bogenholm has not mandated evacuations, but residents are being encouraged to leave ahead of the advancing flood.
The town is busing residents to the nearby community of Scanlon and setting up a local shelter.
Moose Lake has about 2,800 residents and is about 40 miles southwest of Duluth along Interstate 35.
Waters from the Moose Horn river reached the main bridge in town around 2 a.m. and some reports say the level of the river is rising between one and two inches per hour. Arrowhead Lane, the town's main street, is completely under water.
Chief Bogenholm estimates 40 to 50 homes are currently flooded and many more are threatened. Floodwaters have entered the community schools and hockey rink.
Most of the roads north of town are impassable so the town is a virtual island.
Mavis Hartman lives on Moosehead Lake, and stood watching water rise up to her patio, her dock and yard no longer visible, along with her neighbors' properties too.
"With pontoons and boats and lakes docks and decks, we all love each other, we are great neighbors, and this is really, we are pulling together and it is really hard," she said. "Obviously you don't buy flood insurance here. You don't do it, so I am kind of emotional, because I don't know what to do."
In the meantime, three separate sandbagging sites have been set up to protect homes, especially those on the shores of Moose Lake. One resident there says lake levels have risen 6 inches since 7 a.m.
City administrator Mark Vahling said Thursday that at least 30 percent of the city has been impacted by the floods. He says floodwaters that flowed from the north and west after heavy rains Tuesday and Wednesday breached homes and businesses, and forced the closing of the highway 73 bridge over an inlet into Moosehead Lake.
The Red Cross is setting up a shelter at Holy Angels Catholic Church in Moose Lake. Vahling says there are no reports of injuries or fatalities due to the flood.
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