Storm Team 3: Remembering the worst flood to hit Rochester 41 years ago

Several inches of rainfall hit the Rochester area making it the worst flood to ever hit

Posted: Jul 5, 2019 3:24 PM

National Weather Service La Crosse -- Just a few days after the massive flood event June 30-July 1, a more concentrated heavy rainfall event occurred from Dodge county east to Winona county, with the heaviest band of 6 to 7 inches just south and east of the Rochester area. The National Weather Service (NWS) gage at Rochester International Airport measured 4.99" in 3 hours (between 5:53 p.m. and 8:53 p.m.) on the July 5th. Precipitation ended around 1:50 a.m. on the July 6th. The total rainfall at Rochester International Airport was 6.74 inches. The heaviest amount, 7.30 inches, occurred in Quincy Township in eastern Olmsted County. The 4-inch or more rainfall band was about 12-15 miles wide and 74 miles long and covered 700 square miles. The South Fork Zumbro River and it’s tributaries (Bear Creek, Silver Creek, Cascade Creek) went into flood through Rochester causing extensive damage.

Rivers started rising during the evening and continued at a foot per hour during the night. The July 6th crest (at 10 AM) at the Rochester river gage (on the south fork of the Zumbro River) established an all-time record of 23.36 feet (flood stage 12 feet) and 30,500 cfs, easily exceeding the previous record crest (1965) by over 4 feet. This flood and yet another on September 12, 1978 prompted the construction of a major flood control project by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Natural Resources Conservation Service in and around Rochester. This project was completed in 1995, at a cost amounting to $92 million and protects the city against a 200-year recurrence interval flood event.

This flood was considered Rochester's worst natural disaster in almost 100 years and the worst flood in the city's history. One fourth of city, mainly south and northeast sections, was inundated by turbulent flood water 6 feet deep or more. Four persons (a nurse's aide and 3 wheel chair patients) in nursing home were trapped in an elevator and drowned. A fifth person died when her car plunged off County Road 10 southwest of Rochester. Nearly 5,000 residents were forced to evacuate. Dozens of campers at Whitewater and Beaver Creek State Parks were evacuated. Flood waters carried tons of uprooted trees and other debris through downtown Rochester. Several bridges were swept away. Many cars were overturned or swept away. Some were carried for blocks. Basements flooded, a few with water above the first floor with some foundations collapsing. Power and telephone lines were out in central Rochester with no traffic lights in operation. Eighty percent of the city estimated without power with generators under water. Many businesses and shopping centers were closed due to flooding and lack of electricity to operate computers and cash registers. Sewage treatment plant was out of commission. The pictures below show some of the flooding in Rochester (these were from the city of Rochester).

In addition 2 to 3 inch rains fell over the headwaters of the Cedar River in Mower and Dodge counties, which produced significant flooding. Besides causing significant to record flooding, it set the stage for a more important event 10 days later.

The map below is from the Minnesota State Climatology Working Group and it shows the precipitation totals from July 5-6, 1978 in southeast Minnesota. It was prepared using 64 Future Farmer of America reports and 16 National Weather Service reports.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 26980

Reported Deaths: 1159
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin9099657
Ramsey3351149
Stearns205614
Nobles15775
Anoka152779
Dakota144664
Washington70035
Olmsted68911
Rice5243
Kandiyohi5141
Scott4712
Clay44930
Mower4462
Wright3492
Todd3441
Sherburne2492
Carver2402
Benton1853
Steele1700
Freeborn1590
Blue Earth1490
Martin1355
St. Louis11914
Lyon1012
Unassigned9611
Pine930
Nicollet8811
Cottonwood820
Winona8115
Crow Wing815
Watonwan790
Carlton750
Goodhue736
Otter Tail731
Chisago691
Polk632
Itasca5610
Dodge540
Chippewa521
Morrison480
Le Sueur471
Douglas460
Meeker460
Becker440
Jackson420
Murray410
McLeod410
Isanti360
Pennington300
Waseca290
Mille Lacs241
Rock230
Faribault220
Wabasha200
Swift191
Beltrami180
Sibley170
Brown172
Fillmore171
Norman150
Pipestone130
Kanabec121
Aitkin120
Marshall120
Cass112
Big Stone110
Wilkin113
Wadena100
Pope100
Koochiching90
Redwood70
Yellow Medicine70
Renville70
Mahnomen61
Lincoln60
Red Lake40
Traverse40
Grant40
Clearwater30
Houston30
Hubbard30
Lac qui Parle30
Roseau30
Stevens10
Lake10
Kittson10

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 21114

Reported Deaths: 593
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk4614140
Woodbury286137
Black Hawk178849
Buena Vista10672
Linn97879
Dallas95226
Marshall91418
Wapello63615
Johnson6198
Muscatine56741
Crawford5512
Tama41129
Scott38510
Dubuque35921
Louisa35011
Pottawattamie31910
Sioux3060
Jasper26917
Wright2210
Washington1968
Warren1671
Plymouth1522
Story1311
Allamakee1204
Mahaska9913
Poweshiek928
Hamilton760
Webster741
Henry732
Boone720
Bremer716
Clarke690
Des Moines681
Taylor660
Clinton651
Guthrie553
Cedar501
Benton431
Cherokee410
Monroe415
Jones370
Shelby370
Osceola360
Jefferson360
Marion350
Dickinson350
Buchanan341
Iowa340
Clayton343
Cerro Gordo331
Madison292
Lee290
Sac280
Davis280
Emmet270
Fayette270
Clay270
Monona260
Harrison260
Hardin240
Lyon240
Winneshiek240
Lucas222
Mills200
Grundy200
Franklin200
Humboldt201
Pocahontas200
Delaware191
Floyd191
Hancock180
Appanoose173
Butler161
Kossuth160
Carroll151
Ida150
Greene150
Keokuk140
Jackson140
Page140
Audubon131
Cass130
Chickasaw130
Howard120
Winnebago110
Calhoun100
Union100
Van Buren90
Adair90
Montgomery92
Adams70
Palo Alto70
Ringgold40
Fremont40
Mitchell40
Worth30
Unassigned20
Wayne10
Decatur10
Rochester
Few Clouds
72° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 72°
Mason City
Clear
80° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 80°
Albert Lea
Broken Clouds
75° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 75°
Austin
Overcast
75° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 75°
Charles City
Scattered Clouds
77° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 62°
Feels Like: 78°
Weekend looks nice
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Sean Weather 6/6

Image

Chris' PM Weather Forecast 6/5

Image

Gyms, fitness centers set to reopen

Image

Easing restrictions for MN restaurants and gyms

Image

Charles City vigil for George Floyd

Image

Hawkeye Harvest Foodbank partnership

Image

Next phase of Minnesota reopening

Image

Rental Assistance program for Rochester

Image

IA Care Homes Could Reopen to Visitors

Image

'Color Me Mine' Location Closes for Good

Community Events