Mabel resident Donna Johnson is still unpacking items that were quickly rescued from the flood waters that invaded her home last year. FILE PHOTO
Mabel resident Donna Johnson is still unpacking items that were quickly rescued from the flood waters that invaded her home last year. FILE PHOTO
The recent rains may have brought back memories of last year when much of the Mabel area was flooded after receiving a large amount of rain over a one-week period.

Area residents and city officials still deal with the after-effects of the 2013 flood that hit the city hard on the night of June 22 and early morning hours of June 23, 2013.

The Mabel Wastewater Treatment Plant measured a total of 4.45 inches of rain on June 22 with another 4.8 inches that fell on June 23. The National Weather Service reported a total rainfall amount of 9.23 inches that was recorded in Spring Grove between June 21 and June 26, 2013.

From bad to worse

Mabel's Public Works director Bob Mireau recalled that the situation " went from bad to worse, real fast."

As Mireau reflected back on the night of June 22, 2013, he said he received a call at about 11 p.m. that a flooding event was occurring in the city.

"It wasn't real extreme at the time...but within the next hour it just started to pour and pour and kept on for quite some time," Mireau said. "And just like that, everything just went up. It went over the roads and starting to come over the road down here (at the wastewater treatment plant)."

Mireau said it was then that the Mabel Fire Department got involved to help residents out of homes that were flooding and the Mabel Community Center was opened as a temporary shelter.

"It just went from bad to worse real fast...there was a lady who tried to drive through the water and her car got picked up and she was stuck in her car...the fire department came and eventually did get her out," he said.

"It was sure a mess for a lot of a lot of homeowners. It came fast...it just happened within a few hours."

City Clerk Karen Larson could not say exactly how many homes where damaged or which ones suffered damage that was over 50 percent of the property value. However, she did say nearly 50 Salvation Army bucket cleanup kits were given away in the days and weeks following the flooding event.

Damage to city property included heavy damage to Mabel's Steam Engine Park. "Everything was under...the fence, the playground equipment, the steam engine shed, a couple electrical transformers were submerged, the concession stand was swept to the side," Mireau said.

Much of the damage in the past year has been repaired, yet several issues remain. The fence at the steam engine ground has not yet been replaced. "We're working with that in conjunction with the Twins grant, so that we can get it fixed but we want to get it fixed up so we don't have to replace it again (in the event of another flood)," he added.

Work with FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) is ongoing in the process to relocate and/or buyout a few homes in the city's flood plain. However, the agency has changed its criteria and cannot act until Fillmore County has a water plan in effect, Mireau explained.

Mabel city officials have also held discussion with Newburg Township officials regarding solutions and practices to prevent future flooding in the Mabel Watershed.

The city of Mabel is in the center of the Mabel Watershed, which is a complex of creeks and streams that make their way near and into the city of Mabel.

"(Newburg Township) is primarily where the Mabel Watershed resides," Mierau said.

"The rains that we get now...we either get nothing or four or five inches. Obviously it seems like a trend that is here to stay. We need to deal with it the best we can," Mireau concluded.

Appreciating every day

"I guess you have to appreciate every day," said Mabel resident Donna Johnson, looking back one year after she was awoken to find nearly a foot of water in the main floor of her home.

"I'm so grateful that I had family to come in and help and I've got my good health," she said. "It's kind of scary, when you think about it - what could happen tomorrow. But it is the way that it is going to be."

Johnson's home on the north side of Mabel, near the Mabel BP gas station, was in the area which suffered the most water in town.

"I've lived there for 62 years and we've never had a flood - and last year we got flooded. I had about eight to 10 inches of water of the first floor," she recalled.

The home next door, which Johnson also owns and rented out, received even more damage. "I'm not fixing up the (adjacent) house, it's beyond repair," she said.

One year later, Johnson is back in her home once again, but life has yet to return to normal.

"We had to take out all the sheetrock throughout the house and replace it, paint it, and everything got dried out. I had four fans going and three dehumidifiers going in the basement. They came and inspected and there was no mold," Johnson said with a smile. "They worked very, very hard."

Everything in Johnson's basement was a total loss. Items that were salvageable were placed into boxes which Johnson still has to unpack and organize.

"I am still looking for things because they (her family) came in and packed everything on the main floor in boxes.... I haven't found everything yet, I am still unpacking boxes," she admitted.

Between the time of the flood and the time Johnson was able to move back in, she was able to reside in the apartment complex near downtown Mabel. She was able to move back into her home about three months later.

With all she has gone through, Johnson said she is lucky to have her family, her good health, her job at the Mabel Public Library and the financial means to rebuild.

"I was here (the library) every day. I didn't miss a day," she said proudly.

Johnson plans to tear down the home she owns next to her and will continue to unpack.

"It's getting back to normal," she concluded.