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Flood of 1965 fr the 1976 History

pages 144 - 147

In 1965 a combination of heavy - winter snows and early spring rains brought flooding to the Minnesota Val­ley thqt was the worst in 100 years.
By the second weekend in April the waters of the Minnesota River were 21 feet over flood stage in the Burnsville- Savage area. Trains were halted, bridges inundated, and roads closed. The flood disrupted normal activities in the area for almost a week.
The greatest inconvenience was caused by the flooding of the then new 35W freeway. Under two feet of water in some places along the river bottoms, it was closed between Bloomington and Highway 13 for almost a week. With the Savage and Cedar Ave. brid­ges also under water, northbound traf­fic was routed over the Mendota Bridge and monumental traffic jams resulted. Many Burnsville residents with down­ town jobs simply rented hotel rooms and stayed in town.

Savage Village, protected by ex­tensive diking along Highway 13, was spared, but several river front indus­ tries in Savage and Burnsville were completely flooded and suffered heavy losses. The Richards Oil Company, west of Savage, lost its race with the river and abandoned diking. Its huge tanks, usually filled with oil, were emptied and partially refilled with water to keep them from floating away. Loss to the company was estimated by the President, Myron Richards, at $40,000.
At the Port Cargill grain terminal only two structures remained dry, a half-million bushel soybean tank and an elevator containing $16,000,000 worth of grain. Emergency help was called for to patch the dike protecting this structure.

The Embassy Club, now the Corner House, was flooded in spite of exten­sive diking. Owner, George Ellis, was forced to evacuate all furniture and equipment. Further diking and pumping, however, kept the water in the building down to one or two feet.

The Northern States Power Black Dog plant was completely surrounded by water and employees were taken to work in amphibious ducks . Electric power continued to be supplied to the area, however. Diking built to a height of 722 feet above sea level— flood stage is 698--protected Ed Kraemer and Sons, a sand and gravel operation located on the river bottoms in Burnsville.

When the flood waters threatened to seep into downtown Savage, Mayor Merrill Madsen announced on Friday morning, April 10, that the Village would be sandbagged. Local citizens from both Savage and Burnsville re­sponded with energy and determination. The first sandbagging crew, fifty high school seniors, began diking at noon. The work continued over the weekend with volunteers, sometimes 300 strong, manning the shovels and sandbags.

The teenagers, who worked espe­cially hard, earned the respect of everyone involved in the flood effort. Mayor Madsen expressed the feelings of many of the flood workers when he asserted that he didn't want to hear any more talk of juvenile delinquency. Teenage girls helped with the food service, and the boys composed more than half the work force at times, filling and lifting the heavy sandbags. Ten-year-olds, too small to carry the bags, held them while the older boys filled them up.
The operation was directed by the mayor and village council including Cleve Eno, Len Julkowski, John Knut­son, and Gene Kearney. Savage Po­ lice Chief Dick O'Keefe (who doubled as local civil defense director) handled traffic problems. The Burnsville police, the Highway Patrol, and the Dakota County Sheriff helped keep weekend sightseers out of the flood area.

Food service for the flood workers was set up by Mrs . George Allen, Jr. , who was assisted by a score of local women. Food was donated by the Scott County W elfare Department and the Red Cross. Hundreds of families in the Burnsville-Savage area brought homemade casseroles, cakes, and rolls. A serving station was set up
in the Savage fire barn with mobile units bringing hot coffee and sand­wiches to workers at the dikes and
in the sand pits. A thousand people were served in Savage on Sunday alone.

A first aid station was set up at St. James Lutheran Church in Burns­ville by Mrs. Jane Wisness, direc­tor of Red Cross nursing services
for Scott County. Transportation of flood workers to and from the Burns­ville High School where they gather­ ed was arranged for by Robert Pomije and other school officials. In addi­tion to local help, volunteers came from the Twin Cities and every sur­rounding community.

By Sunday afternoon a dike rang­ ing from two and a half feet to four feet high had been built on the north side of Highway 13 from the railroad trestle to the corner of Walnut Street. The Credit River, running through Sa­vage, was also diked. The Village felt secure by Monday, but high school students were sent out early in the week to strengthen the dikes and patch up any leaks. The main concern of the Burnsville public offi­cials was the sewage treatment plant. It, however, remained safe.

The flood caused a variety of unu­sual sights and experiences in the area. Traffic problems inconvenien­ced the largest number of residents.. . Sunday sightseers who attempted to cross 35W to the flooded areas ended up seeing little more than the tail lights of the car ahead. Traffic was backed
up from 106th Street in Bloomington to 90th for five hours. Motorists going to work Monday morning were stalled along Highway 13 from the Mendota
Bridge back to the Burnsville High School, traffic at times not moving at all. Motorists in the area of River Hills made the best of the situation by getting up a roadside ball game.

Freeway 35W .. .usually humming with cars and trucks. . .was submer­ged under a vast, quiet lake dotted with a few trees and road signs. A row boat was moored to the entrance to the Embassy Club. The colorful pleasure boats of Aqua Craft, Inc. floated unperturbed in a neat row near the water-covered marina on the Bloomington side of the river.
Four Minnesota twins players living in Burnsville beat the traffic jams Monday by getting an airlift to the season's opening game with the Yankees. Rich Rollins, Dick Stigmen, Bill Bethea, and Jim Kaat were picked up by helicopter at the Burns­ville High School at 9:30 a.m. and returned after the game. Several clas­ses of elementary age children loca­ted in the west wing of the building were thrilled to see the Twins waiting outside the school.

The Huntley-Brinkley newscast carried the Savage flood story. Their news team, recently back from Viet Nam, visited Savage and were given a tour of the flood area by local offi­cials.
When the flood waters finally rece­ded, the cleanup began, 35W streamed with cars, and the citizens of Burns­ville could get to work. But for several years after the flood, motorists crossing both the Savage and Cedar bridges could see high in the tree branches papers and bits of debris to remind them of those
high waters of 1965.

by Sara S. Daly

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