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Torrential rain causes significant road damage in northern Dunn County

By LeAnn R. Ralph

COLFAX  —  Depending upon where you were the afternoon of Wednesday, September 2, anywhere from an inch of rain to about eight inches of rain fell in a short period of time.

The northern one-third of Dunn County experienced significant road damage from the rain storm, including washed out shoulders and problems with culverts and bridges, said Jesse Rintala, Dunn County highway commissioner.

Local residents in the Colfax area reported a little more than 3.5 inches of rain.

The Ridgeland and Connorsville areas were reported to have received six or seven inches of rain.

According to the National Weather Service, there were reports of up to eight inches of rain from farmers south and west of Ridgeland, and significant flash flooding was reported in the area on the afternoon of September 2.

There were no injuries reported as a result of the rain storm, and no homes were damaged, except possibly for water in some basements and some driveway damage, said Melissa Gilgenbach, Dunn County Director of Communications.

Local residents in the Ridgeland area said more than five inches of rain fell, but they did not know how much more than five inches because that was all their rain gauges would hold, Rintala said.

State Highway 25 and Highway 64 were both closed for a short period of time that day, he said.

Several county roads and town roads in the Highway 64 area also were closed for a while, Rintala said.

The culvert east of where county Highway W heads north toward Sand Creek experienced problems with the excessive run-off water, causing Highway 64 to be shut down for a while, he said.

Dunn County Highway Department personnel stabilized the culvert on Highway 64, but the structure will have to be replaced in the next week or two, Rintala said.

Pictures posted on Facebook of downtown Ridgeland showed the village looking much like a lake, with enough water in the streets to be lapping against the gas pumps at the Cenex station.

Even though Ridgeland was flooded, no businesses had to be closed because of the high water, Gilgenbach said.

The water receded in Ridgeland within a matter of hours, she said.

And in spite of rumors, a “boil water” order was never issued for Ridgeland, Gilgenbach said, noting that she had received telephone calls from television stations about the boil water order.

“There was never a boil water order. That was a rumor. But there was never a boil water order,” Gilgenbach said.


Because so much rain fell so quickly, many town roads, county roads and state highways were impassable for a while the afternoon of September 2.

The biggest impacts from the rain were around Ridgeland and Connorsville and included the Towns of Sheridan, New Haven, Wilson, Sand Creek, Grant and Otter Creek, Rintala said.

A video posted online by Dunn County Sheriff’s Department Captain Kevin Bygd showed 1300th Avenue in the Town of Sheridan looking like a river, with a wide area of water around the road and water cascading across the road and down a bank. Farther down the road, a van appeared to be stalled in the water with its emergency lights flashing.

Water was up to the guard rail for a while on state Highway 25 south of Ridgeland, Rintala said.

“I had come through there a half hour before, and there was water, but it wasn’t over the road,” he said.

Because of the volume of water, the culverts simply were not able to handle it. And once the water starts backing up, it can quickly create problems, Rintala said.

So far “we have not come across any major failures of bridges,” he said.

In the Town of Grant north of Colfax on the newly-constructed portion of county Highway W, a bank slid down and had to be repaired.

“It was quite the rain event,” Rintala said.

Hwy. 170

The farthest south that there was a problem with roads and water was state Highway 170 west of Colfax in the county Highway N area, Rintala said.

This is the second time this year that Highway 170 has flooded in that area because of heavy rain.

Locals say they do not remember Highway 170 flooding in years past, although 170 did flood following eight inches of rain in a several-hour period in 2010.

Reports from residents in the Colfax area indicated that Highway 170 was starting to flood around 5 p.m.

Erik Evenson, a civil engineer with MSA Professional Services who attended the Elk Mound Village Board meeting that night, said there was a foot or more of water on Highway 170 when he came through at some time after 6 p.m. on his way to Elk Mound.

The water had receded on Highway 170 by 11 p.m. that night, Rintala said.