Emergency personnel had to switch gears quickly Monday

By Per Peterson

Apparently, when it comes to Mother Nature, nothing is sacred.

First a flood, complete with a major sewer back-up, essentially wiped out the 4th of July holiday for Tracy residents, then on Monday, as throngs of people eagerly awaited the start of the annual Box Car Days grand parade, a light rain turned into a downpour that lasted about 45 minutes, eventually drowning out the parade — a Labor Day tradition. The rain lasted late into the afternoon, all but ruining another summer holiday in Tracy.

“We were all ready for the parade; it started getting dark, so we pulled the radar up and it looked like it was going to rain for about an hour,” Tracy Fire Chief Dale Johnson said later Monday after he gave the OK for two more fire trucks to return to the station. “Then everything went to hell, real quick.”

Fire fighters were paged to the fire hall at 1:07 p.m. — some 15 minutes after the rain started. With so many people in town there was a definite safety concern.

One of the police officers noticed a couple manholes poppin’, so we started mobilizing,” Johnson said. “With the amount of people in town I wanted to make sure that we had somebody by the manholes. We were worried about one of them coming up and somebody falling through.”

The rain started light as spectators were getting settled along the route. It didn’t take long before that light rain turned into a downpour, reminiscent of the July 3 rain that just wouldn’t end.

“Very ironic,” Johnson said. “Just like July 3rd, there was a heckuva collaboration of police department, public works, fire department … There were elderly sitting there in the down pouring rain. The ambulance was transferring people that couldn’t get back to their home.”

Crews from Garvin, Balaton and Marshall helped out. Of course, they were already in town for the parade.

“As soon as we all mobilized for manholes, they all reported to the fire hall,” he said. “Marshall Fire, Balaton Fire, Sheriff’s Office were helping us with traffic. The game warden was in town. Everybody just chipped in.”

Public Works Director Shane Daniels said the sanitary line was pumped for 45 minutes.

“We weren’t sure we needed to, but we weren’t going to take any risks,” he said.

He said the large parade crowd added to the challenge of taking care of the city.

“It was difficult to get around because everybody was moving from the parade and we were trying to get pumps in at the same time,” he said. “It was a little bit challenging. We monitored it for a while until the water started rising, so we ended up pumping for a little while.”