Cottonwood River engulfs Springfield park

Apartment building evacuated as flood waters neared

Staff photo by Fritz Busch Just about all of Riverside Park in Springfield is underwater. The Cottonwood River above Springfield was observed at 32.69 feet at noon, July 4. The mark was just below the historic crest of 32.89 feet on Sept. 24, 2010. The river was measured at 32.7 feet on April 24, 2001. Observers said the river fell about a foot from July 4 to July 5.

SPRINGFIELD — The Cottonwood River approached a record high water level where it is measured above Springfield on July 4.

The floodwater engulfed Riverside and Rothenburg Parks in Springfield, and forced the evacuation of the River Bluff Apartments in town.

The river was measured at 32.69 feet Wednesday, not far from the historic crest of 32.9 feet, according to the National Weather Service (NWS) Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service. The river was measured about a foot lower on July 5 than it was the day before.

Based on a river gauge at Lamberton, the river crested at that point. In addition, a record flood crest was expected at Springfield, along the Cottonwood River, on Thursday, due to recent additional rainfall.

As the Cottonwood River inched towards River Bluff Apartments, 200 Riverside Dr., Springfield, Brown County Deputy Jason Fairbairn was called by the NWS in Chanhassen about the rapidly rising river.

Fairbairn contacted Brown County Emergency Manager Laine Sletta and Springfield Emergency Manager Scott Johnson. Officials decided to evacuate River Bluff Apartments residents.

The American Red Cross placed most of the seven apartment residents at the Springfield Microtel Inn & Suites and gave them a debit card to cover expenses for a brief period of time. Residents that didn’t go to the Microtel Inn moved to a New Ulm hotel or settled in with friends or relatives.

Springfield Police closed the road through Riverside and Rothenburg Parks before the rising river flooded the road through the athletic complex, swimming pool and campground.

A power outage occurred for Springfield residents south of the Cottonwood River at about 7 a.m. July 5. Springfield Public Utility workers were able to “back feed” to restore power to some residents. The utility department was working on securing additional power generating equipment.

Springfield Police visited residents that were home and without power and explained the situation to them.

City authorities including police, emergency management, a city engineer and Laine Sletta met late Thursday morning. It was decided to survey the river level at 5 p.m. July 5 to decide if or when River Bluff Apartment residents would be allowed to move back into their residences, Sletta said.

One residence on south end of O’Connell Avenue had a flooded basement. City officials decided they would not pump the water out of the basement on Thursday, in order to prevent the basement from collapsing from surrounding flood waters.

A portable gas-powered pump could be heard near the bridge over the Cottonwood River near the Springfield Area Community Center. A utility worker said water was being pumped from a lift station just south of the river to the sanitary sewer just north of the river.

“They’re proceeding as normally as they can,” Sletta said regarding the Springfield utility department.

The NWS extended a flood warning for southern Redwood County and southwestern Brown County until 4 p.m. Thursday. Locations experiencing flooding included Springfield, Sleepy Eye, Walnut Grove, Lamberton, Sanborn, Lucan, Clements, Revere, Wanda and Cobden.

In addition, excessive runoff from heavy rainfall will cause flooding of small creeks and streams, country roads, farmland and other low-lying spots.

A flood warning for the following Minnesota rivers includes:

• The Cottonwood River at New Ulm affecting Brown County. The river was observed at 15.33 feet at 11 a.m. July 5. It was forecast to crest at 17.9 feet on Friday, July 6, then gradually recede.

• The Minnesota River at State Highway 19 at Henderson, affecting Le Sueur, Scott and Sibley Counties; near Jordan affecting Carver and Scott Counties; and at Savage affecting Hennepin and Scott Counties.

• The Redwood River near Redwood Falls affecting Redwood County.