CANNON FALLS, Minn. (WCCO/AP) –Water receded in Cannon Falls on Friday, and officials were cautiously optimistic the worst was over after heavy rains sent the Cannon River and the Little Cannon River over their banks earlier in the day and prompted a voluntary evacuation of about two dozen homes.
Police Chief Jeff McCormick lifted the evacuation recommendation by Friday afternoon, but cautioned onlookers and residents to stay away from the river.
“Don’t go into the water. Even though it may look calm on the surface, it is moving very, very swiftly,” he said. If people fell in, “they would be swept away without a second chance to try to grab something.”
National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Griesinger said the Little Cannon River crested at 20.4 feet early Friday, breaking its record of 16.5 feet set in September 2010. The Cannon River was expected to reach a near-record 15 feet that morning, he said, after 8.8 inches of rain fell Thursday in Cannon Falls.
Other rainfall totals include 7.1 inches near Northfield, 6.5 inches near Red Wing and 6 inches near Dundas.
The river, which flows through the heart of the city, raged and overflowed its banks early Friday morning. Officials said at 6 a.m. that the river’s water level rose above the levels experienced during the flood of September 2010.
Authorities said since 2 a.m., the Little Cannon River rose 39 inches and local streets were closed due to being covered with water. Highway 20 in the area was closed by the Minnesota Department of Transportation because of standing water.
One home in Cannon Falls had a flooded basement, and about 30 canoes floated away from a canoe rental shop. McCormick said water also damaged the roof of a community center and computer labs at Cannon Falls High School.
William Lacefield owns the canoe rental shop.
“I didn’t hear anything…and BOOM: the river was here,” Lacefield said.
His rental canoes floated out the back of his shop and down the river.
Griesinger said 8.4 inches of rain fell Thursday and caused the Cannon River to rise. He said the Little Cannon River, which feeds the Cannon River, crested at 20.4 feet at about 5 a.m. Friday, breaking the record of 16.5 feet from September 2010.
The city of Cannon Falls notified residents to evacuate homes near the closed roads. Sandbagging efforts were underway to limit the damage flooding could cause.
Flood warnings were in effect until Friday evening for Goodhue County and parts of Rice and Dakota counties.
Southern Goodhue County, near the areas of Kenyon Township, Cherry Grove Township and Wanamingo, appeared to take the brunt of Thursday’s storms. Area officials reported a handful of barns and sheds were blown over by winds ranging from 60 to 80 mph.
Griesinger said officials weren’t sure if the damage was caused by a tornado or straight-line winds, but he said a tornado was less likely. He said the storm system lifted hail and rain into the atmosphere, and “when all that came crashing down, it brought some wind with it too.”
There were no official reports of injuries.
Dakota County officials said Friday afternoon that due to high water levels, the boat launch at Lake Byllesby, which is just outside Cannon Falls, has been closed to all traffic until further notice. No boat traffic is allowed on the lake until the levels can come down. When the lake does reopen to boat traffic, a no wake zone will be in place.
At about 10:30 p.m. Thursday, a bus leaving Treasure Island Resort Resort and Casino and was headed to St. Paul with 16 people aboard. According to a casino spokesperson, the bus was traveling on County Road 18 in Goodhue County when rising flood waters caused it to go into the ditch.
Several other cars also went into the ditch in the area near the Etter Bridge. Authorities responded to the scene and a shuttle bus was brought in, which brought the passengers back to the casino. Nobody on board the bus was injured in the accident.
The spokesperson said four people in vehicles that were taken out of the ditch were also transported back to the casino. Officials said 13 people stayed overnight at the hotel at Treasure Island before a shuttle took them back to the Twin Cities Friday morning.
Diane Richter, the emergency management director in Goodhue County, said other parts of the county saw washed-out roads and there were numerous power outages.
“We have our fingers crossed that there won’t be much more rain coming in this direction,” she said. “Roads might be shut down for a long time because of debris.”
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