Klobuchar, Peterson get first-hand flood accounts

TAKING IT ALL IN — From left: District 22A House Rep. Joe Schomacker, U.S. Congressman Collin Peterson and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar view a slide show presentation of photos taken in Tracy on Tuesday and Wednesday during Sunday’s visit to Tracy.

By Per Peterson

U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and District 7 Congressman Collin Peterson toured the city of Tracy on Sunday morning, viewed myriad photos taken at the height of last week’s flood and heard firsthand accounts from local officials about the city’s fight against rising waters and subsequent recovery efforts.

Tracy Police Chief Jason Lichty and Fire Chief Dale Johnson III briefed Klobuchar, Peterson and District 22A House Rep. Joe Schomacker at the Tracy Fire Hall as a slide show presentation rolled through dozens of flood shots taken by Lichty.

Lichty spoke about how people had to be rescued from their vehicles, how public infrastructure in certain areas of the city was wiped away.

“Park Street lost all its infrastructure,” Lichty said. “The water pushed all the gravel from underneath the road and it lost its base.  It’s all going to have to be dug up.”

Johnson and Lichty described how the southwest area of the city flooded and overflowed back into the city. The center of the city, he said, got it the worst because it’s at a slightly lower elevation.

“To the southwest, all the fields are elevated, so for about six miles, all the water that falls in those farm fields comes toward our town,” Lichty said. “We were out on the west edge of town and the water was filling up, but all of a sudden something broke loose south of town — crested over a certain road or certain bank — and you could just watch a wave of water come in from those fields. It just overtook Food Pride, Casey’s.”

It’s estimated that about 50% of businesses in town were affected in some way by the flooding. That’s on top of roughly 75% to 80% of all homes. Of those, between 35% and 40% were overrun by sewage, with some homes taking on between 2 feet and 9 feet of a water-sewage combination.

If there was one ground zero of last week’s flood, it was on Hwy. 14 in front of the Caron residence near the John Deere Implement and The Caboose. There is a natural drainage ditch behind John Deere that flows into the holding ponds.

“We started pumping water across the highway to John Deere into their lot, then we started pumping from the grocery store, because the water from the gas station and grocery store we pumped over to The Caboose where we were already pumping water from,” Johnson said. “When we got the water down at Carons, we had the water at The Caboose down part way to where we could start transferring the water from the grocery store with the first fire truck, back across the road to The Caboose, across the road at John Deere. It was a process. There was no pre-plan.”

All this was completed by Tuesday night. A pump on 3rd street ran over night, as did one at Premium, east of town.

Another bad spot was in front of the ambulance garage near the railroad tracks where the drainage ditch got plugged with debris, leaving no place to go for the water. Water was pumped from one side of the road to the other and shot into a field by three fire hoses. It wasn’t until Saturday that a train was allowed to travel through the city.

For more on this article and politician visits, see this week’s Headlight-Herald.