Northfield left out to dry after severe flooding

In late September Northfield experienced severe flooding resulting from a rise in water levels of the Cannon River, which runs through the center of town. The surge was rapid and left many Northfield businesses scrambling to preserve their buildings and combat the rising river.

Luckily, much of Northfield’s community mobilized quickly to help businesses in need. Northfield Shares reached out in particular to St. Olaf in hopes of a quick response. According to Vice President for Student Life Greg Kneser, the huge outpouring of support even led to some students being turned away because local businesses had such a surplus of volunteers.

Volunteers who made it into town quickly helped out by sandbagging around local businesses in hopes of preventing the rising water from breaching the walls surrounding the river.

The quick response to a rapidly approaching flood helped limit the impact of the heavy rains that swelled the river. Froggy Bottoms River Pub, a popular spot among Northfield’s college students, sustained some damage due to about four feet of water that forced its way into the bar according to owner Laurie Hoheisel, but a major disaster was averted due in part to the sandbagging efforts.

“Everybody keep their fingers crossed that it’s just a sight to see,” Hoheisel said, in reference to the unusual level of the Cannon River. Ultimately, despite minor damages, it appears to have been just that.

Luckily for Hoheisel and Northfield residents, the pub was reopened after just a few days, and most of the Northfield businesses and restaurants surrounding the Cannon River were affected minimally by the event.

At first glance, matters could have been much worse than they eventually turned out to be.

The effects of the flooding could be not ed across town at various locations. The dam in the center of downtown Northfield was almost indistinguishable from the rest of the river.

The Carleton College athletic facilities were drowned in river water and the soccer fields were nearly covered by the rising water level. Additionally, the Carleton football team was forced to play its homecoming game versus Hamline University at Northfield High School last Saturday. Also, some of Carleton’s student housing along the river sustained damage.

The water levels have dropped, albeit much less rapidly than they rose, which can be a concern for the environment. Floodwater is often contaminated in a variety of ways, mostly due to human activity.

Since the floodwater infiltrated some of the Northfield ecosystem, crop production and other plant growth might be affected by excessive contaminated water.

As far as the fields at Carleton, it remains to be seen how the college will deal with its athletic schedules for the remainder of the fall season. It may be difficult to ensure the quality of the fields for the safety of the athletes in the next several weeks, even though the standing water is no longer present.

This is not the first time that Northfield has experienced flooding from the Cannon River and and this may prompt future changes regarding how Northfield handles these instances and organizes cleanup volunteers.

This time, at least, the city of Northfield can be proud of its efforts to prevent the flood from getting out of control and wreaking havoc in town.

yahn1@stolaf.edu

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