Aug
20
2007

In a flash: How can you go from drought to floods in just days?

Wet wheels: These two cars in Goodview, Minn., were getting lost in the flood waters from the heavy rains of the past weekend. (Flickr photo by ssoross)
Wet wheels: These two cars in Goodview, Minn., were getting lost in the flood waters from the heavy rains of the past weekend. (Flickr photo by ssoross)
If you told me a week ago we’d be hearing reports on flash floods in Minnesota, I’d have asked you what you’ve been smoking lately.

But after one of the driest summers we’ve had on recent record, that’s just where we found ourselves yesterday morning, hearing harrowing stories of flash floods ripping through homes, roads and anything else in their paths in six counties of southeastern Minnesota.

How could it all change so fast?

First you get an intense amount of rain – some cities in the flooded area reported single-day rainfalls of 10 to up to 17 inches. And that rain fell on some unusually formed land. The Mississippi River Valley cutting through the region has left some steep bluffs, allowing water a great chance to pick up steam from the high levels on down toward the lowlands.

Here’s a link to the Star-Tribune’s page of photos from the flood.

Have you experienced a flash flood?

I’ll tell you my story. Years ago on a guided trip through the Grand Canyon in September – the canyon’s rainy season – our guides would not let us get ahead of them on hikes on the side canyons because of the threat of flash floods in side canyons. The slightest glimpse of a dark cloud overhead had them sending us back out of the slot canyons to avoid the danger. I thought it was all part of the showmanship of their work. A few days later while motoring along on our raft, we saw a flash flood come gushing out of a side canyon, carrying boulders, tree trunks and anything else the flood found in its path. The continuing rumble was like the sound of five jets taking off at the same time. I’ve got a new-found respect for flashfloods after that.

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