Important Information Regarding Flooding
Flooding in our county is caused by three major sources. The Cedar River, the
Little Cedar River and the Upper Iowa River leave their banks during heavy
storms, snow melt or ice jams. In addition, flooding can and does occur on the
smaller streams of the county. Flooding can come with little warning. Even
though they appear to move slowly (three feet per second), a flood two feed deep
can knock a man off his feet and float a car.
Even though your property was high enough not to
be flooded this year, it can still be flooded in the future because the next
flood could be worse. If you are in the floodplain, the odds are that someday
your property will be damaged. This article gives you some ideas of what you
can do to protect yourself.
County Flood Services
The first thing you should do is check your
flood hazard. Flood maps and flood protection references are available at the
Austin Public Library. More information, such as depth of flooding over a
building’s first floor and past flood problems in the area is available from the
County Offices. They also have a handout on selecting an architect, engineer or
contractor to do flood proofing.
The Mower County Departments will visit a
property to review its flood problem and explain possible ways to stop flooding
or prevent flood damage. This is a free service. This is a great source of
help if you have experienced flood, drainage or sewer backup problems.
What Can You Do
Do not dump or throw anything into ditches or streams. Dumping in our ditches
and streams is a violation of the mower County Flood-Plain Management
Ordinance. Even grass clippings and branches can accumulate and plug channels.
A plugged channel cannot carry water, and when it rains the water has to go
somewhere. Every piece of trash contributes to flooding.
If your property is next to a ditch or stream, please do your part and keep the
banks clear of brush and debris. If you see dumping or debris in the ditches
or streams, contact the Mower County Planning Department at 507-437-9560.
Always check with the Planning Department before you build on, alter, re-grade,
or fill on your property. A permit may be needed to ensure that projects do not
cause problems on other properties. If any nonconforming use or structure is
destroyed by any means, including floods, to an extent of 50% or more of its
market value at the time of destruction, it shall not be reconstructed except in
conformity with the provisions of Mower County Zoning Ordinance 14-135(5).
Check out information on flood proofing, flood insurance and flood safety, as it
appears later in this article.
If you don’t have flood insurance, talk to your
insurance agent. Homeowner’s insurance policies do not cover damage from
floods. However, because Mower County participates in the National Flood
Insurance Program, you can purchase a separate flood insurance policy. This
insurance is backed by the Federal government and is available to everyone, even
for properties that have been flooded.
Some people have purchased flood insurance
because it was required by the bank when they got a mortgage or home improvement
loan. Usually these policies just cover the building’s structure and not the
contents. During the kind of flooding that happens in Mower County, there is
usually more damage to the furniture and contents than there is to the
structure. At last count, there were several flood insurance policies in Mower
County. If you are covered, check out the amount and make sure you have
Don’t wait for the next flood to buy insurance
protection. There is a 30-day waiting period before National Flood Insurance
Program coverage takes effect. Contact your insurance agent for more
information on rates and coverage.
Even if the last flood missed you, or you have done some flood proofing, the
next flood could be worse. Flood insurance covers all surface floods.
Flood-proofing Your Property
There are several different ways to protect a
building from flood damage. One way is to keep the water away by regarding your
lot, or building a small flood wall or earthen berm. These methods work if your
lot is large enough, if flooding is not too deep, and if your property is not in
Another approach is to make your walls
waterproof and place watertight closures over the doorways. This method is not
recommended for houses with basements, or if water will be over two feet deep.
A third approach is to raise the house above
Many houses, even those not in the floodplain,
have sewers that back up into the basement during heavy rains. A plug or
standpipe can stop this if the water doesn’t get more than one or two feed
deep. They can be purchased at a hardware store. For deeper sewer backup
flooding, talk to a plumber about overhead sewers or a backup valve. These
measures are called flood proofing or retrofitting. More information is
available at the Austin Public Library.
Do not walk through flowing water. Drowning is the number one cause of
flood deaths, mostly during flash floods. Currents can be deceptive; six inches
of moving water can throw you off your feet. If you walk in standing water, use
a pole or stick to ensure that the ground is still there.
Do not drive through a flooded area. More people drown in their cars
than anywhere else. Don’t drive around road barriers; the road or bridge may be
Stay away from power lines and electrical wires. The number two flood
killer after drowning is electrocution. Electrical current can travel through
water. Report downed power lines to the Power Company or City Emergency
Have you electricity turned off by the Power Company. Some appliances,
such as television sets, keep electrical charges even after they have been
unplugged. Don’t use appliances or motors that have gotten wet unless they have
been taken apart, cleaned, and dried.
Look out for animals, especially snakes. Small animals that have been
flooded out of their homes may seek shelter in yours. Use a pole or stick to
poke and turn things over to scare away small animals.
Look before you step. After a flood, the ground and floors are covered
with debris including broken bottles and nails. Floors and stairs that have
been covered with mud can be very slippery.
Be alert for gas leaks. Use a flashlight to inspect for damage. Don’t
smoke or use candles, lanterns or open flames unless you know the gas has been
turned off and the area has been ventilated.
FLOODING - WELLS AND SEPTIC SYSTEMS
you are in a low area or near a river or stream and floodwaters or standing
water were within 50 feet of your well you should have your water tested. If
your water has become discolored or taken on a different odor since the flooding
you should also have your well sampled and the water tested. However, if flood
waters from a river or stream or even run-off from the ground surface was
standing over the top of your casing, or you noticed it running down along side
the casing, you should have your well disinfected.
On most wells disinfection can be done relatively easily by following
directions from the Minnesota Department of Health or the Mower County
Environmental Health Department. If you are not able to do the disinfection
yourself, or if after repeated attempts the disinfection has not removed the
bacteria from your well, you should contact a licensed plumber who is able to
work on wells or a licensed well contractor. A follow-up or “retest” is
necessary to determine whether the disinfection has been effective. An
additional test, two to six months after your disinfection and initial retest,
is also advised to make sure that the bacteria has not reoccurred. Water tests
on an annual basis are recommended for all private wells.
Sewage treatment systems normally consist of two components, the settling tank
and the soil treatment unit. There are several ways that these can be impacted
by floodwaters. First of all, a flood or heavy run-off can saturate the soil
treatment unit or possibly causing water to run into it. Floodwaters may also
cover the top of a septic tank causing water to run into it. During a flood,
when a drainfield or septic tank are covered by water, the system should not be
Using the system at this time could cause contamination of water in the soil.
At this time you are risking backup of sewage into the home as well.
After floodwaters recede, or after surface water has drained from the drainfield
or septic tank, the drainfield should dry out and return to normal. This may
take a matter of days or even weeks. If water has covered the septic tank, the
septic tank should be pumped out as soon as possible to remove excess water to
prevent solids from passing through the tank. The additional water in the
septic tank will also create an additional load on the soil treatment unit.
After water has dried up from the surface, a septic system should return to
proper working order. If it does not, the ground water table may be interfering
with the soil treatment unit, the biomat that exists in the soil treatment unit
may have been disturbed, or solids may have been flushed from the septic tank
and are now plugging a part of the soil treatment unit. In these cases you
should contact a state licensed ISTS contractor. Names and phone numbers of
these contractors are available at the Mower County Environmental Health
Department or from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency.
FLOOD PROTECTION ASSISTANCE FOR RURAL PROPERTY
This notice is to advise the public that the County Engineering Dept.,
Environmental Health and Planning Offices provide flood protection assistance
which includes flood zone determinations, providing base flood and flood
protection elevations, information on wells and sewer system construction and
Information on wells and septic system in floodplain
Angie Knish, Mower County
angiek AT co.mower.mn.us (replace AT with @)
Flood zone determination and general information
More Information on Flooding can be found on the