MINNEAPOLIS – Several Midwestern states were a soggy mess Thursday after up to 10 inches of rain fell in parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa and triggered mudslides that caused one death.
Washed-out railroad tracks derailed a train in southwestern Wisconsin, where a mudslide destroyed a house and killed the man inside. Crews built dams to protect a cheese cave and a woolen mill in southern Minnesota. And in northern Iowa, about 100 people were evacuated from their apartments.
The rain mostly moved through the states Wednesday evening and early Thursday, though another round was in the forecast for northern Iowa on Thursday night. While much of the water began to recede or drain Thursday, its effects could be found throughout the area.
Mud pushed a home onto Wisconsin State Highway 35 in Vernon County on Thursday morning. It took search and rescue crews until the afternoon to find his body, emergency management officials said. His name was not immediately released.
About 40 miles south in Crawford County, two BNSF Railway locomotives and five cars derailed. The crew wasn't injured, but one of the fuel tanks ruptured, spilling about 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel — some into the Mississippi River, the railroad said. BNSF crews placed booms downstream to capture the fuel. Wisconsin emergency officials said 15 people who lived nearby were evacuated as a precaution.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker declared a state of emergency for 13 counties to help local governments pay for the costs of damage and cleanup to public infrastructure.
In Minnesota, the northern suburbs in the Twin Cities area saw up to 10 inches of rain. Seventy miles south, Waseca saw nearly 14 inches of rain over two days. Basements were flooded across the community, and several residents were evacuated.
"We've never had it like this, never," Joyce Brown, who has lived in Waseca for 42 years, said about the standing water on her property. "Never never never never never."
To the southwest, the city of Faribault declared a state of emergency as it worked to hold back the Cannon and Straight Rivers. Crews placed sandbags to protect the Faribault Woolen Mill, a popular tourism destination, and built a berm to keep the water out of the Caves of Faribault, which are known for their award-winning, cave-aged blue cheeses.
The water was maybe ankle deep when Glen Steberg went into his barn Thursday morning along the Zumbro River in Wanamingo, about 60 miles south of Minneapolis.
An hour later, his son and their neighbor were chest-deep in dark, cold water, rescuing six calves and about a dozen steers. The men led the calves through the cow yard, where the water was chest-high, Steberg said.
"They were swimming all the way like a dog," neighbor Logan DeWitz said.
In northern Iowa, authorities evacuated about 100 people from two apartment complexes in Mason City after Chelsea Creek left its banks, Cerro Gordo County emergency management spokesman Michael Groesbeck said.
About 60 homes in the town of Greene took on waist-deep floodwaters from the Shell Rock River in Butler County. Audrey Smith's husband had to be rescued Thursday after the tractor he used to try to retrieve a freezer of meat was swamped. She said they'd worked all night removing items from their home, but didn't finish before floodwaters arrived.
The Smiths rebuilt after a devastating flood in 2008.
"Guess what? We aren't rebuilding again," she said.