Storm drops buckets of rain

Thursday, May 18, 2000

By Josh Freed and

Jaime Larson-McLoone

The Post-Bulletin

Golf ball-sized hail and heavy rain fell in southeastern Minnesota on Wednesday, causing damage in Austin, flash flooding that covered some roadways in Winona County and scattered street closings in Rochester.

No injuries were reported.

The storm that moved through the region produced a double-wallop of hail in the late morning, followed by heavy rains later in the afternoon. Rainfall for the storm measured 4.9 inches at Rochester International Airport as of 8:25 a.m. today, including an inch that fell in just 45 minutes Wednesday.

In Rochester, Wednesday's total of 4.02 inches of rain obliterated the record for May 17 of 1.11 inches; the old mark was set in 1982. The one-day total was the fifth-greatest on record in Rochester, according to the National Weather Service. The record is 7.47 inches that fell July 11, 1981.

Wednesday's rain pushed the year's total to 9.48 inches, which is about 1.5 inches above normal. Today's rain will add about another inch.

In Austin, the total was 2.97 inches (from 7 a.m. Wednesday to 7 a.m. today).

The most rain from the storm was 5.01 inches reported in Lanesboro. In the Wabasha area, 1.5 to 2 inches of rain was recorded, according to a sheriff's dispatcher.

Some low-lying Rochester streets were barricaded because of standing water, including Seventh Street Northwest in front of the Northgate shopping center and U.S. 52 southbound under the Sixth Street Southwest overpass, according to Police Lt. Tim Heroff. He also described a "minor mudslide" that closed one lane of traffic in the 2200 block of Second Street Southwest.

Three highways were closed or restricted for a few hours because of mudlsides or high water. The three were U.S. 218 south of Blooming Prairie, southbound U.S. 61 south of Winona, and Minnesota Highway 16 west of Grand Meadow where high water washed out a shoulder.

In Winona County, flash flooding and minor mudslides left some roads closed or partially blocked, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

Marble-size hail was reported in Rochester, but golf ball-size hail fell in Mower County and southeastern Dodge County.

In Austin, the hail caught three M.J. O'Connor Inc. employees without shelter Wednesday morning as they installed a rooftop heating and cooling unit at the McDonald's restaurant.

"I had welts all over my back. I've never seen hail like that in Austin my whole life," said 37-year-old Austin native Ken Roche.

Randy Miller, of Randy's Auto Body in Austin, said he saw vehicles Wednesday afternoon that sustained $2,000 to $7,000 in hail damage.

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