Weather casualties: School roof, Big Ole's helmet


The heavy rain and strong winds of the past several days have soaked many communities, flooded homes and businesses and done damage to a number of facilities.

One of the latest casualties is the roof of an elementary school in Morris, part of which collapsed after heavy rains Friday night, according to WCCO.

There's a 15 foot-by-20 foot hole in the roof of St. Mary’s School, which is part of the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Morris, school officials said. The building itself suffered major structural damage as well as water damage. The building is not in use this summer, and should be repaired before the new school year begins in the fall.

Another, more iconic structure also suffered some storm damage – the Big Ole statue that stands guard over the central Minnesota town of Alexandria.

Big Ole, made of Fiberglas, is 28 feet tall and has been a landmark in the area for nearly 50 years. He lost one of the wings on his helmet in a recent storm, according to the Forum News Service.

It's not yet clear when Ole's wing might be fixed, or how much it will cost. In the meantime, residents of Alexandria have started a "Get Well Big Ole" page on Facebook.

The weather forecast for Sunday evening looks fairly calm and dry, which will be a nice break for many residents still dealing with high water.

The chance for thunderstorms shifts south, away from the metro towards southeastern Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa Sunday night.

Flood warnings are still in effect for areas around many Minnesota rivers – including the Mississippi, Crow and Minnesota.

A cold front is expected to move in, clearing out the area and bringing in cooler and less humid air Tuesday through Thursday. However, the humidity is expected to return for the Fourth of July, and with that comes a better chance for thunderstorms.

Saturday storms

Communities on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border saw 1-2 inches of rain in an hour as a heavy band of thunderstorms moved through the state Saturday. As of 5 p.m., Farmington had gotten 1.68 inches of rain in an hour and Lino Lakes saw 1.72 inches, the National Weather Service said on Twitter.

About a half-inch of rain fell at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport by 7 p.m. Saturday, bringing the June total to 11.27 inches, just shy of the record June rainfall record of 11.67 inches set in 1874, the weather service notes.

Heavy rains caused flash flooding Saturday, turning many streets into rivers in Minneapolis – the same streets that flooded a week or so ago.

Residents told KSTP that once the heavy rain began Saturday, some intersections in the Lyn-Lake area of Minneapolis flooded within 10 minutes. The flood waters were so high some parked cars were halfway underwater.

Heavy rains have had people in Prior Lake continuously sandbagging to prevent their homes from flooding, and they don't expect to see waters recede anytime soon. KARE 11 reports it could be weeks or even months until the water levels go down.

"This has just been a nightmare," Carrie Salonek, a postal worker in Prior Lake, told KSTP. "I feel so bad for all these people, seeing them work like crazy every day, and every day I can get to less houses."

Salonek can only drive her mail truck to the edge of the flooding, and then residents come to her – often by boat – to pick up their mail.

State Rep. Tony Albright toured the flooding in his Prior Lake district Saturday, fearing that things will get worse before they get any better.

"You're talking about raw sewage and storm sewage that's going to be coming up and floating into people's lawns. You got people walking around in flip-flops and what not that aren't protected so you got the chiggers, you got the skin issues that are going to happen not only now but later on," Albright told KSTP. "We're not dealing with this just for the next couple weeks. I mean this is through the end of the year and probably into next spring, too."

Luckily Saturday's rain only raised the water on the lake by a quarter-inch. Mayor Kenneth Hedberg told the Star Tribune that 40 homes are already flooded and more rain could be "catastrophic."

The bright side to Saturday's rain? When the skies cleared, it made for a spectacular sky:

Pollution in rivers

Heavy rains that have flooded the state have also washed nearly a year's worth of sediment into the Minnesota River and its tributaries, and more than 30 times the proposed pollution limit, MPR News reports.

The levels of farm fertilizers were as much as 10 times the proposed pollution limit, Pat Baskfield, of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) told MPR.

The MPCA says that stormwater is the leading cause of water pollution. As it flows, it picks up contaminants and by the time it drains into a storm sewer or nearby waterway, it can contain a "nasty mix" of debris, sediment, metals, oil, grease and bacteria, which can cause water problems locally and globally, the MPCA says on its website.

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