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: 63723

Reported Deaths: 1739
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Hennepin20063845
Ramsey7904270
Dakota4670106
Anoka3891115
Stearns293520
Washington225548
Olmsted180923
Nobles17819
Scott166922
Mower11172
Rice10488
Blue Earth9606
Wright9395
Carver9153
Clay79540
Sherburne75810
Kandiyohi7251
St. Louis63620
Todd4312
Lyon4273
Watonwan3842
Freeborn3651
Nicollet36313
Steele3632
Benton3273
Winona27216
Beltrami2670
Crow Wing26514
McLeod2400
Le Sueur2371
Martin2125
Chisago2111
Otter Tail2094
Goodhue2089
Cottonwood1800
Becker1641
Pipestone1619
Polk1614
Waseca1571
Carlton1490
Itasca14612
Douglas1441
Unassigned14446
Isanti1410
Dodge1360
Pine1320
Murray1251
Chippewa1191
Morrison971
Wabasha970
Faribault930
Brown922
Rock890
Meeker882
Sibley862
Koochiching833
Jackson810
Cass793
Pennington751
Fillmore730
Mille Lacs733
Renville675
Lincoln610
Grant574
Swift571
Roseau530
Yellow Medicine530
Houston490
Pope480
Aitkin421
Norman400
Hubbard370
Kanabec372
Redwood370
Wilkin353
Marshall300
Wadena280
Mahnomen271
Big Stone250
Lake240
Red Lake240
Stevens220
Traverse150
Clearwater140
Lac qui Parle90
Lake of the Woods70
Cook60
Kittson30

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 51101

Reported Deaths: 965
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Polk10800210
Woodbury378354
Black Hawk324566
Linn250389
Johnson216521
Dallas195135
Scott180815
Buena Vista180112
Dubuque177031
Marshall147527
Pottawattamie140029
Story120315
Wapello94336
Muscatine88048
Webster8678
Crawford7433
Cerro Gordo67119
Sioux6713
Warren5972
Tama56129
Plymouth49312
Jasper49028
Wright4851
Clinton4504
Dickinson3874
Louisa37814
Washington30710
Boone2783
Franklin25912
Hamilton2561
Bremer2407
Des Moines2262
Clarke2103
Clay2101
Carroll2082
Emmet1974
Marion1930
Shelby1931
Hardin1890
Floyd1753
Jackson1671
Benton1641
Allamakee1624
Poweshiek1608
Henry1464
Mahaska14417
Guthrie1425
Lee1415
Buchanan1401
Cedar1361
Jones1362
Butler1332
Madison1302
Delaware1291
Humboldt1271
Hancock1252
Lyon1242
Pocahontas1202
Clayton1163
Harrison1161
Cherokee1101
Winnebago1080
Winneshiek1061
Kossuth1020
Page1010
Taylor1000
Iowa981
Palo Alto980
Fayette960
Mills951
Monona931
Calhoun922
Cass901
Jefferson890
Osceola880
Sac870
Grundy861
Mitchell830
Union831
Monroe758
Lucas744
Worth710
Chickasaw620
Davis622
Montgomery624
Howard550
Appanoose533
Fremont450
Greene420
Keokuk411
Van Buren391
Adair380
Ida330
Audubon301
Decatur280
Ringgold241
Wayne211
Adams170
Unassigned50
Rochester
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Mason City
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Albert Lea
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57° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 59°
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Austin
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Charles City
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