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BIG RlvER

(Flood continued from page 1)

High water threatened substation switches at the Dairyland Power Cooperative's generating plant in Alma, according to The Winona Daily News. Retired plant superintendent, Julian Nelson, recalled building a dike around the structure and renting pumps, which ran round the clock, to save it. Flood waters surging through Indian Creek, past the Whitman Dam (S), drove a third of Cochrane's 458 residents from their homes. Ritscher, now Alma's mayor, said Cochrane was inundated with water and residents traveled

Aprll 1994

low-lying areas. More than 6,000 people worked on flood control during the emergency. They fought frantically at the near hopeless dike-building tasks. They got an unexpected break during the night of April 16, when the river's 18.8-foot water level suddenly dropped

Rumors immediately started that someone had dynamited the Burlington dike to save Winona.

eight inches. The Burlington and Green Bay Railroad bed downriver on the Wisconsin side - had broken. The constricted flood waters spread across the 4,000-acre Delta Fish and Fur Farm, relieving pressure on the dike upriver. "We were lucky," Voss said. "That bought us time so we could sandbag." The river continued rising until it crested on April 20, at 20.7S feet - 7.7S feet above the flood stage and 2.8S feet by boat through the village's streets. Local farmer Kenneth higher than the previous high set in 19S2. The dike held. The Averbeck watched workers build a dike, seemingly overevacuated residents returned to their homes on April 22, and night, on his property to prevent Cochrane from becoming the city watched the water recede. the Mississippi's new main channel. Were the events of April 16 a lucky _break or an imposJust downstream, in Fountain City, 11 families and 10 sible coincidence? Rumors immediately started that someone businesses were evacuated when five feet of flood waters had dynamited the Burlington dike to save Winona . Jim crossed North Shore Drive. The U.S. Army Corps of EngiStoltman, an alderman at the time, told the Daily News in neers' boatyard in Fountain City became the focal point for 1990 that foul play never occurred. The constant wave action area sandbagging efforts. It hired 1,372 men to fill sandbags of the raging river needed no assistance. and reinforce Lock and Dam SA. Before the waters receded, "That dike gave way by itself," he said. "It was an act of the boatyard would issue more God, really." than a million sandbags. But to this day rumors Dam 4 Wisconsin Wabasha * April 19, 65 persist in the Winona and The Battle for Winona Trempealeau area that God Dam 5 *Alma April20,6~ Wally Voss, lockmaster at had nothing to do with Dam5a _ __ Lock and Dam SA, below destroying the dike. Winona April 20, 65 Winona * Fountain City, fought with may have escaped serious hundreds of others to flooding because of the *La Crosse strengthen the dam's spillway, incident, but the city's gain Minnesota Dam 8 on the Minnesota side of the came at a long-term loss to the - - April 22-23, 65 river. Time was precious, and Trempealeau National *Genoa the river was rising faster than Wildlife Refuge, which bought sandbags could reinforce the the fur farm in 1979. The Lansing* Iowa dike. If flood waters overflooded waters overrunning Wisconsin R. topped the structure, Winona the area had deposited tons of and its 26,000 residents would thick, muddy silt into the * Prairie du Chien be underwater. backwater area . The silt For a few precarious days, provides a poor substrate for all eyes watching the great aquatic vegetation, an imporflood of 1965 focused on tant food source for wildlife. Operation Eagle, the effort to Refuge personnel blamed the save Winona. In preparing for poor substrate, in part, for the failed attempts to establish . the worst, mayor Rudy K. Ellings ordered the evacuation wild celery in the refuge The crest took a week to travel from Alma to Dubuque. of 1,035 residents who lived in during the mid-1980s.

Flood waters surging through Indian Creek, past the Whitman Dam, drove a third of Cochrane's 458 residents from their homes.

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Profile for wsuopenriver

Big River - April 1994  

Big River - April 1994  

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