Mother Nature is not happy
Wednesday night, Sept 21, Owatonna was hit by a strong storm that had a huge impact on the town, its students and the high school.
September 25, 2016
Over the past few days, it has been clear to see that for some reason Owatonna has angered mother nature in one way or another. Thunderstorms and torrential downpours have been let loose all over southeastern Minnesota over the past few days. For Owatonna, it was Tuesday night and all throughout Wednesday that hit the hardest, leaving behind far too much water to simply evaporate. Already having to deal with a very wet summer, these storms had some serious effects on Owatonna.
Taking a drive down Bridge street makes that fact very evident. Morehouse park itself is completely underwater; the playground, paths and waterfall are not even visible anymore. The water levels have been creeping higher and higher to where the bridge stretching over Straight river is almost completely under as well. Morehouse Park is not the only location to be experiencing part two of Noah’s flood. Mineral Springs, Maple Wood and many other public parks located on low ground can all be found to be submerged as well. While currently the water levels are receding, reports of damages continue to surface. Multiple streets around Owatonna have been forced to be blocked off due to the flooding and dozens of houses have reported minor to serious water damage. Eight businesses have also reported damages since the storms, one could clearly see the levels rising above the entrances when driving down Oak Street. In addition, the berm separating Straight River from the Construction quarry could not sustain the pressure and broke, causing it to fill with water and possibly damage millions of dollars worth of machinery.
As schools around Owatonna called late starts and closures , the biggest issue concerning the student body was the difficulty that it takes to get to school. Sophomore Aaron Thevenot views the flooding as a huge inconvenience to his day to day schedule. “There was a river running down my street and it was very difficult to get to school because there are only two paths that I could use,” said Thevenot.
Many others are finding they have the same problem. With so many streets blocked off, traffic is piled up in the few routes to the OHS that are open. A large percentage of the students at OHS also live in rural areas, which makes it difficult for buses to get through the flooded gravel roads. Countless other students are having difficulties finding routes to take that won’t risk getting the interior of their cars wet. Many already woke up Thursday morning to the unpleasant surprise that their cars were flooded overnight. The storm hit many unprepared for the consequences.
In addition to the travel issues, OHS students and staff had flooding throughout the city. The southeast end of town is no stranger to flooding. Flooding has been an issue since 2007. Although the City of Owatonna has added two retention ponds and changed drainage, families have flooded in 2010 and now again this year. Josh and Emma Burns have dealt with this numerous times. Senior Josh Burns recalls the flooding, “We heard the sump pump start running around 10:30 p.m., so we started putting the furniture in the garage and unplugging all the electronics. We then started carrying buckets of water from the sump pump outside to prevent our house from flooding. Once the corner of my bedroom was wet, we knew it was over. It is the third time flooding in 14 years.”
Coming back to school on Thursday, many no doubt noticed the fans set up all across the school, desperately trying to dry out the areas that got rain. Already having to deal with the damage to the roof above the gymnasium and the floor itself over the summer, these recent storms did not help the matter. Areas that were hit the worst were A, B and C Plaza, hallways for both areas, the boiler room, and of course, the gymnasium. This is forcing OHS to replace the damaged carpet and properties and use expenses on employees hired to clean up. Mark Randall, principal of OHS, explained how the old sections of the building are the ones causing the most issues. Randall said,“We constantly are playing “catch up” to repair roofs, the foundation of the building and other parts of the building to maintain the integrity of our learning environment. This is becoming more and more difficult as the building gets older. These storms have proved to be very irritating for the board, as they have interfered with OHS’s schedule for sporting events and learning programs. Games have had to be cancelled, however they will be made up with time and the college and career day had to be rescheduled. Luckily, according to Randall, these recent weather complications have not affected the progress of the renovation of the gymnasium.
Despite the brief scare of a possible repeat of 2010, water levels have receded significantly in the past few days. Luckily, Owatonna officials have been prepared for occasions like this due to that much more severe flood back in 2010. If not for these cautions, there would no doubt be countless more reports of serious damage all around town. After more showers on Sunday morning, the weather predictions are OHS will have a cool and dry week for homecoming.