Moose Lake battles encroaching floodBy late Thursday, dozens of homes in Moose Lake were completely flooded as water from the lake and the Moose Horn River overflowed their banks. In several neighborhoods of the town of 2,750, the only way to get around was by boat or swimming.
By: Brandon Stahl, Duluth News Tribune
MOOSE LAKE — About 3 a.m. Thursday, Mavis Hartman said the water encroaching on her backyard from Moosehead Lake still left her with about 4 feet of lawn.
An hour later, she said, “There was no lawn.”
By the early afternoon, the creeping water had flooded her basement and was slowly going up the steps to the back door.
“It just keeps coming. If it goes up another step,” she said, “we’ll evacuate. Then it’ll be in our home and we’ll just have to go.”
By the end of the day, dozens of homes in Moose Lake were completely flooded as water from the lake and the Moose Horn River overflowed their banks. In several neighborhoods of the town of 2,750, the only way to get around was by boat or swimming.
At one point, Greg Frye was willing to do just that. He owns Kennelz and Bits in Moose Lake and was asked to save what he was told was a dog in a flooded house. When he couldn’t find access to a boat, he jumped into the water and swam out to DNR officials in a nearby boat. (Eventually, other people who were helping Frye were able to make it to the house — but no dog was found.)
Residents nearest the water were told they could voluntarily evacuate. Those who didn’t worked to keep the water out of their homes with pumps, pails and shovels.
For some, the damage to their homes already was done. Cole Lower, 17, had to walk several blocks through knee- and sometimes waist-deep water to get to his house. Once there, he found it surrounded by water. Inside, it had risen to 6 feet in the basement.
He said his parents are in Boston, and he broke the news to them this morning.
“I called and asked if they wanted the good news or the bad news,” he said. “My mom asked for the good news, and I said, ‘there is no good news.’ ”
For Jaime Kuusisto and his mother, Pam Talarico, the only way to get to their house was by boat, and one was docked to their back deck. About 40 to 50 yards away floated the remnants of a shed they said marked the shoreline of Moosehead Lake. Even as the water filled their basement, they said they had no plans to leave.
“If we take off,” Talarico said, “who’s going to take care of our house?”
Several blocks away, Ashley Chandler was part of a team helping to sandbag the perimeter of a house — though not her own. Her home, she said, had 4 to 5 feet of water in the basement, with more coming up through the drain pipe.
“There’s nothing else we can do,” Chandler said, explaining why she was helping to sandbag someone else’s home.
The house she was sandbagging was about 20 yards away from the Moose Lake High School, which saw its parking lots, baseball and soccer fields completely submerged in several feet of water. Teams of volunteers would come in trucks to sandbag the perimeter of the school, but with the water level continuing to rise throughout the day, no one was sure if it would be any help.
The flooding in Moose Lake first hit areas north of the town on Wednesday. Mike Davis said volunteers filled thousands of sandbags from early Wednesday morning until about 11 p.m. in a parking lot next to the town grocery store, Marketplace Foods, in Moose Lake’s downtown.
By Thursday morning, that parking lot “is the lake right now,” said Darrell Christian, who owns Marketplace Foods.
Davis said many of the sandbags he helped fill went near the shoreline of Moosehead Lake, but the water flowed several feet over the barriers, flooding the homes and about a half dozen of Moose Lake’s businesses.
It only got worse for the town, as sometime during the early afternoon water got into the sewer lift station, causing it to break down due to substantial electrical damage, said Moose Lake City Administrator Mark Vahlsing. He said because of the problems all of the sewage was going to be pumped directly into the Moose Horn River, and he urged residents to limit their water and bathroom use.
Vahlsing said he couldn’t even guess at the amount of monetary damage the flood had caused.
Despite what is probably millions of dollars of damage, many of the residents seemed upbeat. Hundreds volunteered to either fill sandbags at the town’s train depot, or to cart them to flooded areas.
And some, even despite the devastation, found time to joke. Tom Anderson said his garage was completely flooded, destroying, among other things, six motorcycles and a classic 1974 Corvette. But at least, he joked, it wasn’t a 1990s Corvette.
“What can you do about it?” he said. “There’s nothing we can do, except just wait for the water to go down.”