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How does a city prepare for flooding? Pine Island doesn’t anticipate another 2010

Behind the baseball fields in Pine Island near the entrance to the Douglas Trail, the Zumbro River pours onto the fields. A recurring event for Pine Island residents, concerns over high waters and flooding has been averted at the moment after a possible ice dam dislodging in Dodge County threatened to have flood waters increase. Matthew Lambert / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 3
A field along County Road 3 collects flood waters outside Pine Island. Civil Defense Director Wayne King said the community has helped a few residents with water and snow issues, but flooding hasn’t been a major problem yet begins. Matthew Lambert / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 3
The Goodhue County Sentence to Serve program helped fill and deliver sandbags to the Pine Island Public Works Department last week after concerns of high water and flooding arouse. Sandbags are free for residents, but do have a cost for non-residents. Matthew Lambert / RiverTown Multimedia3 / 3

PINE ISLAND — Wayne King knows that all of the record breaking snow that hit Goodhue County this winter has to go somewhere.

As the streets/park supervisor and civil defense director for the city of Pine Island, King said he and his crew are well aware of the possible flooding threat facing the city this spring as temperatures warm and a possibility of rain following.

Early last week, King became concerned after hearing of an "ice dam" in Dodge County. If and when this "ice dam" broke, the water would have flowed into Pine Island near County Road 24.

Concerns were already high, with 8 feet of water being present in some places in town. King said if that number would've been just a foot higher, his crew would've started knocking on doors.

King drove to the suspected problem area, but saw that water was moving around the ice structure, making the threat level much lower.

Like clockwork Pine Island routinely has high water and flooding issues. With the Zumbro River running through town and along the Douglas Trail, seeing the Trailhead Park and baseball fields near the Middle/High School flooded is a usual site every spring.

A 2010 flood in Pine Island caused school closures, costly repairs to residential homes and businesses, and highway closures. That flood was a result of record level rainfall and the dam on Lake Shady in Oronoco bursting.

Almost certainly flood or high water levels won't match those levels, but King and his team are prepared for anything to happen. King said his team routinely monitors the river levels, giving updates as often as possible. Accurate numbers is what King relies on. Hyperbolic statements or loosely sourced prediction don't help anyone in an emergency situation.

"It's nice to warn people," King said. "Got to watch that happy line of scaring people."

Using measuring sticks to check the river depth, finding if and when the flood waters may crest and a close focus on temperatures are routine for King's department.

So far this spring, King's team have helped residents with water issues and moving snow. The winter was a taxing one for the department, running low on product and long hours removing snow, then moving to dealing with flood waters is difficult, but routine for them.

Sentence to Service

Over King's 17 years in the department, he's relied heavily on the Goodhue County Sentence to Serve program, that uses inmates from the county jail to do a variety of tasks for cities across the area.

The Sentence to Serve crew came to Pine Island to fill sandbags in case flood waters did become higher. Public Works has numerous pallets worth of sandbags that are free for residents, but do have a cost for non-residents.

King said that he can't say enough good things about Sentence to Serve and all its help over the years. Having a resource that can help with doing tasks such as filling sandbags is a great benefit to the Pine Island community.

For now, it's a waiting game, but when it comes to residents concerned about flooding or any other emergency situations, King said he welcomes the calls.

"Property is one thing but lives is another," he said. The department is here to help.

Matthew Lambert

Matthew Lambert joined the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2018 covering school board, public safety, and writing features. Lambert previously wrote for the Pierce County Herald and River Falls Journal. He is a graduate of Winona State University with a Bachelor's degree in Mass Communication: Journalism. 

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