MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Flash flooding during Wednesday’s heavy rain caused some frightening moments for one Roseville couple.
Virginia and Harold Kulla were stranded underneath Highway 36 at Fairview Avenue by rising water. First responders had to rescue the couple, who are in their 80s.
The Fairview Avenue underpass is a busy artery in the heart of Roseville’s shopping district. It also happens to be a roadway prone to flash flooding in heavy rain.
The Kullas were unaware of that flooding tendency when they ran errands Wednesday afternoon.
“It was raining so hard, I could not see in front of me,” Virginia said. “I started going under the bridge like I always do and, all the sudden, the water splashed up on me and then the car died.”
With their car stalled and the water quickly rising, the couple called 911.
“We knew somebody was going to help us. We weren’t going to sit there and drown,” Virginia said.
Battalion Chief Neil Sjostrom and Ted Larson with the Roseville Fire Department were among the first on the scene.
“Just in the short 30-60 seconds that we had when we got on scene, before our entrance into the water, that water rapidly went up the rest of the doorway,” Sjostrom said.
Larson said he saw a police officer approaching the vehicle when they arrived at the scene.
“We knew there were multiple people in the vehicle so we knew he would need help,” Larson said.
That police officer was Thomas Hicke, a rookie with the Roseville Police Department who was on his first day of patrolling solo.
“It’s a heck of a start to the first day,” Sjostrom said. “He made some good choices to help rescue folks out of that vehicle, too.”
Larson and Sjostrom quickly waded in with no time to change into dry suits.
“In this case, we just had to throw life jackets on and get out there to them,” Larson said.
Fighting the rising water, first responders had the couple out of the vehicle and to safety in minutes.
“The worst part of it is that you don’t know what your next step is in the water because you can’t see where you’re going,” Larson said. “At any moment you could drop down a manhole, drop down a sewer. It’s important that one person be holding on to whoever is in the water.”
On Thursday, the water had receded, but a debris line on a nearby fence showed just how high the water rose. It is a reminder that in cases of rain, even the familiar can suddenly become unpredictable.
“Watch for the water,” Virginia said. “It was raining so hard that I couldn’t see. If I had seen it, I wouldn’t have headed into it.”
The couple was not hurt. At least one other motorist also got stranded in the water, but was able to make it out of their car without assistance.