Flood waters ravage Tracy

Photo by Per Peterson / The driver of this bread truck misjudged where the entrance was to Food Pride and was temporarily stranded Tuesday morning after some 6 inches of rain fell in about three hours.

Editor’s note: Because of the Fourth of July holiday, this week’s Headlight Herald went to press Monday afternoon before the storm hit the area. Therefore, flood coverage will only be found here and in next week’s edition. Also, this week’s paper won’t be available at newsstands Tuesday; because of the storm there is no way for staff to pick it up at Page One in Slayton and deliver it. The paper will likely be available at newsstands Wednesday.


By Per Peterson /

Tracy residents woke Tuesday morning to a downpour, and some of it was inside their own homes.

Unofficially, Tracy received more than 6 inches of rain in about three hours overnight Monday and just under 12 total, causing severe flooding in every corner of the city. It seemed outside of downtown, no area was immune from rising water — and even sewage.

Some unlucky drivers who tempted fate to navigate through deep water at certain intersections ended up abandoning their car.

“This is more water than I’ve ever seen,” said Tracy Police Chief Jason Lichty. “You can’t plan for this. I ended up rescuing a gal out of her car at Emory and Center. Her car stalled out in the water and the water filled the entire interior of her car up to the steering wheel. She was scared to get out because the water was moving fast and she couldn’t swim.”

Over at Food Pride, a bread delivery truck nearly tipped over when the driver misjudged where the entrance to the store parking lot was. He, too, was stranded temporarily.

“I guess I missed the drive way. What was I thinking?” was all he could say as he sat in his truck pondering his next move.

By Tuesday evening, sandbagging efforts were under way behind and in front of the city’s only grocery store. The city provided the sand and friends, family and employees of owner Bruce Schelhaas lent their efforts to protect the store.

Morgan Street between Food Pride, Subway and leading into Casey’s was perhaps the worst area in town Tuesday morning. Ditches and curbs were hidden under deep water, and eventually the road closed to prevent a constant wake that was going directly into the Food Pride parking lot each time a vehicle crawled its way through the water.

There was also damage to homes Tuesday. At least two houses suffered severe damage after walls collapsed. The foundation of one — a small home on Elm Street owned by Mary DeBlieck — caved in.

“We came over from Albert Lea,” said her son-in-law Steve Johnson. “She sent pictures of it, but there were so dar we could tell what happened. I’m guessing it happened around 4 or 5 o’clock this morning.”

Johnson said DeBlieck could hear when the wall caved in. “It boomed,” he said. “She was pretty upset.”

Lichty said residents were having issues, not just with rain water, but raw sewage. Homeowners in different parts of the city faced raw sewage coming in from their toilets.

“My day started about 4 in the morning with a phone call from a person that told me they had raw sewage backing up into their basement,” Lichty said. “I notified Public Works, said that we were having issues in town; they said they were getting calls, too.”

Lichty said emergency personnel worked to try and control people from driving around through dangerous areas — for their safety and to avoid causing more problems.

“It was a huge issue,” he said. “For one, it’s not safe to drive through water with a car. Even if you do have a pick-up, drive through it really slow, not fast — that causes more issues.”

Lichty has also been documenting the after effects of the storm as part of the city’s effort to be declared a disaster area (Lyon County was eventually declared a disaster area by the state).

“This is already going to be a disaster,” he said. “We’re already getting the paperwork started to get some money to help pay for the damage. We’ll be keeping track of all the resources we’ve used — whether it’s Public Works, of the fire department, or the police department, or pulling in individual contracts to pump out water. We’ll be asking people later to let us know about their damages.”

About 8.5 inches of rain fell just southeast of Milroy, and the city of Balaton received 4.5 inches of rain.