Waters still rising in parts of southwest Minnesota

REGIONAL -- Windom High School students and community volunteers filled 11,000 sandbags Thursday, with Friday's goal to have 25,000 sand bags ready as the Des Moines River that flows through town continued to rise.

Justin Harrington waits for the skid loader operator to finish dumping sand on the 24-sandbag form that fills the bags all at once on Thursday at the Cottonwood County Fairgrounds. (Tim Middagh / The Globe)

REGIONAL - Windom High School students and community volunteers filled 11,000 sandbags Thursday, with Friday’s goal to have 25,000 sand bags ready as the Des Moines River that flows through town continued to rise.

Cottonwood County Emergency Management Director Paul Johnson said the river is slated to crest around 23 feet Monday afternoon in Windom. Already out of its banks and flooding adjacent parks and a baseball field, the river’s flood stage is 19 feet. As of 8 a.m. Friday, it was at 22.71 feet.

“It came up quite a bit overnight,” Johnson said Friday morning.

Johnson offered his thanks to all of the volunteers that have helped fill sandbags thus far, and said more help may be needed this weekend. He urges people to check the city’s website and social media pages for updates. Volunteers are asked to gather at the BARC in downtown Windom. The BARC will also be taking requests from residents who may need assistance in sandbagging.

Just eight months ago, the city of Windom faced significant flooding due to heavy rains. Johnson said good notes were kept during that response and are being followed now.


“We’re really monitoring those areas and other areas of town because this flood is just a little different from the last one,” he said. “The last one was a lot of water from Murray County coming and this one is also a lot of water from here, too, with snowmelt.”

Before noon Friday, crews began placing sandbags around public infrastructure near the river, Johnson shared.

Cottonwood County and the city of Windom signed emergency declarations earlier this week, though Johnson said numbers yet on the extent of the damage have yet to be received.

“Our county highway system has quite a bit of damage from washouts,” he shared. “Townships have indicated to me that they’re going to have damage, too.”

Cottonwood County’s state threshold for disaster declaration is $22,000, and Johnson said he’s confident the county will hit that. It first needs to get through the river’s crest and then assess damage once the water recedes.

In Jackson County, Emergency Management Director Tawn Hall said most of the flooding thus far is over township roads.

“We’re still asking people who don’t live on those roads to stay off,” she said. “We’ve had significant damage to all gravel roads in Jackson County. When this started last week, we didn’t have a gravel road that wasn’t untouched.”

So many of the roads have damage, in fact, that all of the county’s road barricades are in use, Hall noted.


Both Jackson County and the city of Jackson officially declared a state of emergency earlier this week, though Hall said the economic impact of the flooding has not yet been determined. City and county staff are filling sandbags, and Hall said if volunteers are needed, a request will be put out via CivicReady (to register for alerts, visit ), social media and radio.

“As of right now, we’re sitting OK with flooding in the city of Jackson,” Hall said Friday morning. “The river did go up about a foot last night.”

With information from NOAA, Hall said the Des Moines River in Jackson is slated to crest Sunday through Tuesday.

“Right now it’s looking pretty even at about 13.5 feet for this weekend, which is below where we crested last year,” she said. “Into next week, it could be different.”

Murray County, which saw significant flooding last summer, has thus far come through the spring thaw OK. Heath Landsman, Murray County Emergency Management Director, said there is some flooding, but it’s in low-lying areas and pasture land.

“There’s water over some township roads - either had water over them or still do,” he said. “Travelling is going to be pretty tough on these township roads until they dry out.”

Township roads have taken a beating in Nobles County as well, with lost gravel and damage to one culvert reported thus far, according to Tom Johnson, county administrator and interim emergency management director.

“I think our threshold is right around $36,000,” Johnson said. “There’s no question in the state’s mind that they will meet the state threshold to do a formal (disaster) declaration.”


Nobles County took action earlier this week to approve an emergency declaration.

“We’re really fortunate from a flooding standpoint - we don’t have any major rivers,” he added. “Until the field tiles can open up and drain, (water) goes over the road. We’ve had to wait for a lot of ice to break loose. A lot of the culverts were just froze solid.”

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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