By Liz Collin

FRONTENAC, Minn. (WCCO) — The Mississippi River has forced a lot of people out of their homes over the last two weeks.

In the small southeastern Minnesota town of Frontenac, nearly a dozen homes on Lake Street are surrounded by the Mississippi. The river has covered their yards and flooded the street.

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Clay and Virginia Ruggles aren’t complaining. They’ve seen it worse.

“We don’t call this flooding, we call it high water,” said 81-year-old Clay, adding: “A lot of slow traffic goes by and says, ‘Look at those crazy people living down there.'”

The Ruggles river-front home has become an island oasis. While the home is surrounded by water, there’s no flooding inside. Most neighbors have been forced out of their houses because their septic tanks are flooded. The Ruggles built theirs up above the flood line, so that’s never been an issue.

With the road leading to their house under three feet of water, there’s only way to get in and out of their home.

“It gets to be a nuisance having to canoe out all the time,” Clay said. “My wife hasn’t mastered that yet.”

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But she remembers the first time they experienced high water.

“I entertained the whole neighborhood that was watching me, because I was going around in circles,” said 77-year-old Virginia.

To make things easier, Clay enlisted the help of his neighbor. Stacking risers and cement blocks, they used whatever they could find in their basement to build a bridge. This is the fifth time since 1985 they’ve built a bridge. Clay has made a habit out of storing plywood, old garage doors and ladders for this exact reason.

Three of their 11 neighbors have also started to use the bridge to get to the highway where their cars are parked. A substitute mailbox is set up down the road since only the box sticks out above the water.

“It makes it interesting when you really have to go somewhere,” Virginia said. “You decide, ‘Do I really need that gallon of milk today?'”

The water should be out of their yard in the next week or so. Until then, the Ruggles are enjoying their new view of the Mississippi.

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“This is just an inconvenience,” Virginia said. “It isn’t a disaster like it is for so many folks that are flooded.”

Liz Collin