THOMSON, Minn. - For a woman who struggles to reach the fourth step of a ladder, a ride in the basket of a Coast Guard helicopter was not Linda Johnson's idea of a good time.
But it was something one of her rescuers said minutes earlier that convinced Linda it was time to leave her flooded Thomson neighborhood.
"I said I don't want to go and he said, 'It's better we take you now than to find your body at the bottom of the road somewhere.' That scared me."
Linda and her husband Alan believed they could ride out heavy rains in their home along the Thomson reservoir. Older neighbors had been doing it for years.
The Johnsons decided to stay against the recommendation of the sheriff's deputy who pounded on their door early Wednesday morning.
"You're thinking it's not going to get that bad," said Alan. "We kept thinking it's going to recede," added Linda.
Instead the water rose even higher, spilling over the reservoir walls and cascading down their street. The Johnsons watched as pieces of their neighbors' homes were torn away and as parts of Vermillion Street were carried away by the currents.
"At one point I was talking to my sister and a big chunk of the pavement just stood straight up. I was shocked," said Linda.
With water entering their kitchen and Alan's commercial photo studio, he toyed with the idea of trying to cross the white-water river running down the street. He soon realized it was too late.
Finally convinced by the Coast Guard to leave, the Johnson's were given one minute to pack. Alan grabbed his camera gear while Linda picked up the photo studio appointment book.
Individually, each was lifted up into the helicopter in a basket and flown to the Duluth airport.
As much as the Johnsons hated leaving their home, both expressed relief to be free of the stress that comes with not knowing what the river might have in store for them next.
For now they will be biding their time at Duluth hotel where Alan requested a room - with any view but the lake.
"It's nice not being wet," he said.
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