Muddy mess greets returning evacuees

10:10 AM, Aug 21, 2007   |    comments
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Rainfall Totals
   Southeastern Minnesota and southwestern Wisconsin were recovering from flash floods on Monday after a major storm dumped more than a foot of water in several towns.
   The National Weather Service released following rainfall totals for the three days ending at noon Monday.
WitokaWinona 17
CaledoniaHouston 15.6
Utica Winona 14
New Hartford-Nodine Winona 13.4
La Crescent Houston 11.58
Rochester - NW Side Olmsted 11.1
Dodge CenterDodge 9.07
Zumbro FallsWabasha 8.14
Theilman Wabasha 6.33
MillvilleWabasha 4.75
Harmony Fillmore 4.72

La Crosse - South Side La Crosse 12.2
Stoddard Vernon 11.75
Viroqua Vernon9.73
HolmenLa Crosse4.89
Steuben Crawford 4.86
West Salem La Crosse4.69
Cuba CityGrant 3.23
Mondovi Buffalo 3.21
Four CornersMonroe3.08
Black River Falls Jackson 3.04
Hatfield Jackson 2.49
Medford Taylor1.2

Many people whose homes were evacuated over the weekend spent Monday getting trying to figure out how to get their lives back together. KARE visited with people in Winona, Houston and Fillmore counties who returned home Monday — for some the news was good, for others it was bad. Rushford The only signs of life in the Fillmore County town of Rushford Monday were people working to clean things that were perfectly clean just 48 hours before. Everything that was underneath flood waters Sunday is coated with a thick coat of mud. Among them, the home of Tim and Karen Wilkemeyer. "Everything we did to the place is gone," Tim said. The new furniture is drenched, the new shed is floating in the neighbor's yard — and the new roof now sits above a home with a questionable future. The basement is still filled with thick muddy water. "Thought we'd get ahead, but now we're further behind," Tim said. The evacuation is not over, Monday was more like visiting day. Like the hundreds of others evacuated from Rushford, the Wilkemeyers were given a few minutes back in their home to gather pictures, clothes and other important items. ?Until the water is pumped back into the river, the utilities are restored and the homes are inspected, city officials say the town simply isn't safe. Yet somehow the people in the town are safe, thanks to the local fire department and neighbors, like Tim Wilkemeyer, who risked their own lives to rescue others in canoes and boats. "A lot of old people live in this in this town and they needed help," Tim said. "They need a lot of help now." Houston Outside of Houston, in Houston County, Monday there was a long line of slow-moving cars on the highway — an unusual sight in a town of 1,000 people. But after a mandatory evacuation Sunday — fueled by high water and a fear that the local levee would fail — residents biggest desire was to get home. Despite pools of water in her basement, Deb Miller is relieved. "We feel lucky, you bet," she said. "This is all just material things, but it is just a little overwhelming. The levees in Houston held after 19.3 inches of rain fell in 48 hours in the county. The same could not be said for Rushford, Houston's neighbor to the west.

By Joe Fryer, KARE 11 News

(Copyright 2007 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)

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