BROWNTON - Quick response by firefighters and city workers Tuesday prevented a levee break in Brownton from becoming a full-blown disaster.
The temporary gravel levee along 1st Avenue, near Division Street, in Brownton broke late Tuesday night. The second temporary gravel levee at 5th Avenue North did not break.
Brownton Fire Chief Morrie Gasow said the break was caused by the excessive rain Monday night that rose up from the storm drains and pressed against the levee from the back side.
The city's sewers were sealed off prior to the Monday rains to prevent water from the nearby Lake Addie from traveling up them. Two city-owned pumps were working at the time to remove water from the sewers.
Gasow said the unusually heavy rainfall, up to 2 inches, exceeded the pumps' capacity and allowed water to build up behind the levee.
"I don't think they figured it would be that much water in that little time," said Gasow.
City workers and firefighters, on the advice of the Army Corps of Engineers and Minnesota Rural Water, sprang into action building temporary clay berm for each levee. At the same time, a torrent of snow and sleet fell on Brownton, adding to the challenge. The workers labored all night, completing the construction mid-morning Wednesday after nearly 20 hours.
The completed clay berms had a maximum height of 17 feet, 3 feet above the gravel levees' height and Brownton's previous record flood level. The clay was provided by the Gaylord Sanitation Department.
Acting Mayor Norman Schwarze said that the City constructed the clay berms to this year's projected flood crest. He explained that the berm at 5th Avenue North was built as a preventative measure.
He added that this year's flood could potentially be the highest flood in Brownton's history.
Schwarze, a Brownton city councilor, is currently acting as mayor because Mayor Curtis Carrigan is on vacation in California.
Despite minimal damage to property, some Brownton residents have expressed frustration that the City did not prepare better for the Monday rains.
Darren Robinson, a resident, said he awoke to find one of his propane tanks floating like a bobber in the flood water.
"I'm pretty mad with the City. They never should have closed off the storm drain," said Robinson, "They knew the rain was coming, but they kept them closed anyways."
Robinson said that despite the flooding reaching his trailer, there was no damage to his property.
As the clay berms were being completed, six pumps were brought in from surrounding towns to remove the water that entered Brownton during the break.
Schwarze said that the City has not yet added any additional pumps, stating that he believes the City has enough to handle flooding going forward. He said more pumps would be requested if they felt they would encounter further high waters levels like Monday's rain.
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)