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Homes Flooded Near International Falls As Rain Continues

Updated: 06/15/2014 10:56 PM
Created: 06/15/2014 7:09 PM WDIO.com
By: Travis Dill
tdill@wdio.com

Heavy rains around International Falls continued through the weekend dumping inches on several communities causing major flooding with some homes surrounded by feet of water.

Only a wall of sandbags holds 2 feet of water from completely flooding a home along the Rainy River. Ashley Belanger said it's a sight she couldn't imagine.

“I never thought it would get to the house I never thought we wouldn't have a yard, or we'd have to evacuate the house,” Belanger said.

She lives with her parents about 15 miles west of International Falls and they haven't given up on their home yet.

Belanger said they started setting up sandbags on Friday when the river was 10 feet from reaching the home. She said 40 people turned out to help her family over the weekend, but even with their aid water reached the basement so pumps are running constantly to force it back into the yard.

“We're just doing what we can. I mean you keep sandbagging and keep hoping the water is going to go down. And there is nothing else you can really do,” Belanger said.

A handful of homes in her neighborhood were facing similar flooding, but the problem wasn't isolated. The flooding extended west to the town of Loman where authorities closed Highway 11 due to 3 feet of water standing on the roadway.

The Black River runs off the Rainy River in Loman. Water was running over 100 yards beyond the banks and threatened to flood the town's fire hall.

Fire Chief Adam Claybundy said hundreds of volunteers and thousands of sandbags are the only things holding the river back.

“We would have 3 to 4 feet of water in our fire hall right now,” Claybundy said. “We can't do it much longer; we just can't. We're going to end up losing it if we get what they're saying we're going to get.”

He said residents are bagging sand in the fire hall to prevent that. The Koochiching County sheriff's office reports that volunteers have filled about 50,000 sandbags.

Claybundy said wells were backing up into some residents' homes in Loman, but that didn't keep them down.

“It's amazing how upbeat people are actually right now. We have some pretty resilient folks around here,” Claybundy said.

The water flows from Rainy Lake east of International Falls. In Ranier, Koochiching County Sheriff Brian Jespersen said they have a little more time to shore up homes.

“We don't have the flash flooding like down on the river where it comes up so quickly. So on the lake side it's more gradual, but the river comes up quick,” Jespersen said.

He said hundreds of volunteers helped sandbag about 20 homes in Ranier, but he may need to call in reinforcements if the rain continues.

“If we get too much more, and we have to hit more residences I'm going to have to call in some extra people, get some state assistance if need be,” Jespersen said.

The residents along the border were trying to hold their own, but if the rain keeps up it may soak them in sorrow.

“It feels like it's relentless, like it's never going to stop. I don't know, you want to keep hoping that it's going to, and it's just getting kind of hopeless,” Belanger said.

Jespersen said the National Weather Service reported over 2.5 inches of rain fell in the area, but he said some residents had gauges registering over 5 inches of rainfall.

The rising level of Rainy Lake left hundreds of dock underwater. Jespersen said some were damaged last week when the high water combined with heavy winds on Thursday.

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