Rain, rain, go away: Precipitation levels are far above normal, causing problems for some area lake home owners
In 2013, it was the “winter that wouldn’t end.” This year, weather challenges have created what could be called the “soaked spring” all around Minnesota.
According to the National Weather Service, much of the area between Perham and Pelican Rapids has received as many as 15 inches of rain in the 30 days between May 20 and June 20 – about 8 inches more than considered normal.
As of press time Tuesday, the latest dumping of rain in Otter Tail County came from a severe but brief thunderstorm that included funnel cloud sightings, leading to tornado warnings, on Friday.
In the southwestern corner of the state, near Pipestone and Luverne, Minn., 30-day precipitation totals have reached 20 inches.
Rivers around the state have begun to rise due to the rainfall. In St. Paul, the Mississippi River is expected to crest at 20.5 feet, more than six feet above flood stage, by Thursday. The Red River crested at 28 feet in Fargo on Monday – just two feet shy of “major” flood level.
Some parts of Minnesota in June were soaked by 1 to 2 inches of rain daily for 10 consecutive days. About half of the state’s counties had reported flood damage as of Monday.
The state is close to marking its rainiest June, based on climate records that date to the late 19th century, said Pete Boulay, climatologist with the state's Department of Natural Resources.
Last week, in response to the many situations developing around Minnesota, Gov. Mark Dayton declared a state of emergency in 35 counties - including Otter Tail, Grant, Todd and Hubbard. The declaration was extended for 30 days on June 23.
On Monday, the state’s emergency services manager said that 46 of the state’s 87 counties had reported flood and other storm damage.
After the declaration, Dayton was able to send 100 Minnesota National Guard soldiers to northern Koochiching County, along the border with Ontario, where the Rainy River and Rainy Lake were threatening homes and cabins.
The last three summers have been particularly bad in Minnesota for deluge-type rains, in which a large amount of rain falls over a short period of time, said Joe Kelly, Minnesota’s deputy director of homeland security and emergency management.
“We’ve had some strange weather patterns in the past three years,” Kelly said.
On Paul Lake, west of Perham, the pattern of wet weather has exacerbated an existing fight with high water levels.
“It’s a mess out there right now,” said Debra Salzwedel, of North Mankato, Minn. She and her husband, Larry, own a small cabin on the west side of Paul Lake.
Larry said they raised the cabin by 2 feet and added riprap after having problems in 2000.
“I thought it would be enough,” he said.
In 2011, the lot flooded again, but it didn’t get high enough to get into the cabin, Larry said.
Now, the water has flooded the Salzwedel’s lot again.
“If the cabin goes, I guess that will be the end of our cabin life on Paul Lake,” said Larry. “It’s just inconvenient for us… I can’t imagine what it’s like for year-round residents.”
“It’s higher than it’s ever been,” said Stanley Gaffney of Perham, who has had his cabin on Paul Lake since 1973, when he learned that water had reached half-way across West Paul Lake Drive.
After investing $11,000 to add sand and build up his lot last year, it’s flooded again.
“It kind of ticks a person off,” said Gaffney.
There have been various meetings about managing the lake’s water level over the last 10 or more years, Gaffney said, “But nothing’s happened or been done.”
While no severe weather was in the forecast for the Perham area as of Tuesday’s press time, daily chances for rain were predicted to extend through Saturday, June 28 with “thunderstorms likely,” according to the National Weather Service.
Reuters Media and Forum News Service contributed to this article.
In related news,
The Minnesota DNR is urging boaters, paddlers and swimmers to think twice before heading out on the water right now.
People must be especially cautious around high water; making sure they wear a life jacket and are aware of local flooding conditions and alerts. People also should not venture into flooded areas.
“Rivers, lakes and streams around Minnesota are extremely swollen and that water is cooler than normal,” said Kara Owens, DNR boat and water safety specialist. Water temperatures around the metro are hovering around 70 degrees, which is 5-10 degrees colder than normal.
“Stream and river currents are also extremely strong and moving fast, which many boaters and swimmers are not used to,” Owens said.
Boaters should also be aware that there’s more debris in the water. That includes both natural and man-made objects that have been swept into the river.
“Debris will often float just at or below the surface,” Owens said. “Hitting a log at high speed could result in damage to boats or serious injuries.”