Storms drop hail, cause some flooding, traffic jams

Associated Press
Thursday, May 18, 2000

Residents are assessing damage today and some farmers are faced with having to replant as heavy thunderstorms that rumbled across southern Minnesota dumped large hail and caused some flooding.

Twin Cities residents faced a slow commute as the rain continued to fall through the early morning hours. Several accidents were reported throughout the metro area.

Rochester has received nearly five inches of rain -- and it's still raining.

Other rainfall reports include nearly 3-3/4 inches at Fairmont, 3 inches at New Ulm, 2-1/2 inches at Owatonna, and 2 inches at Olivia.

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport had 1.26 inches of rain as of 7 a.m.

The heavy rains have closed several roads in southeastern Minnesota.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation says U.S. Hwy. 218 south of Blooming Prairie was closed from 2-4 a.m. this morning because of water over the roadway.

Southbound U.S. Hwy. 61 near Twin Bluffs south of Winona was restricted by a mudslide.

And Minnesota Hwy 16 west of Grand Meadow was restricted after high water washed out the shoulder. All of the highways have been either cleared or restored to normal traffic.

An underpass on a heavily traveled street near downtown Austin was closed because of high water after the city received nearly four inches of rain.

The National Weather Service reported hail as big as 1.75 inches across falling at Sleepy Eye, New Ulm, Cambria, Courtland, Nicollet and Lake Crystal during Wednesday's storms. One-inch hail was reported at Springfield, La Salle and Kasota, while three-quarter and half-inch hail fell at several other locations.

It hailed for 20 minutes in St. Peter, where the hail was a half-inch in diameter.

Deep drifts of hail piled up in Kasota, near Mankato, looking like snowdrifts.

``It was just like a blizzard. It kept going and going and going. First nickel-sized, then pea-sized,'' said Dale Larson of Door Engineering and Manufacturing in Kasota, which had its shed roof parted by the weight of water and piled hail.

Hail in Lincoln and Lyon counties piled up to 2 inches thick on some road, causing slippery conditions.

Some crop damage was reported.

``A ton of beans are going to end up being replanted,'' said Kevin Jeurissen, a manager at LaSalle Farmers Grain Co., where marble-sized hail covered roads and fields.

Nicollet farmer Rick Rosin said it's too early to tell whether he'll have to replant. Meanwhile, he marveled at the surreal effect produced by the hail accumulations.

``It was really weird. It created steam that was like a fog,'' Rosin said.

He also said it created pronounced temperature variations between areas that received hail and areas that didn't.

``I was driving back to my farm just afterwards and it felt like driving from a June day into a January day,'' he said.

Heavy rains caused street flooding in several communities. Up to two feet of water clogged intersections in Sleepy Eye, and there was some street flooding in Marshall. Water covered the road in some places in Winona County by early evening.

A flash-flood warning had been issued for Winona County after numerous small creeks and streams rose 2 feet or more across the southeastern portion of the county late Wednesday afternoon. Mudslides and flash flooding were reported in the steeper terrain closer to the Mississippi River.

A flash flood advisory was in effect late Wednesday for the southeastern corner of Minnesota, where the weather service said creeks and streams were full and that additional heavy rains could pose problems. As much as six inches of rain had already fallen around Rochester before sunrise this morning.

A flash flood watch also was in effect in far southwestern Minnesota.

The storms also brought high winds that blew over a semi on Highway 14 west of Lake Benton, near the Minnesota-South Dakota border.

In Lyon County, a full-sized pickup pulling a trailer blew over a mile east of Russell.