IMAGE: FLOODED HOME
Dave Kolpack  /  AP
Jeff Backer, mayor of Browns Valley, Minn., looks outside his front door on Wednesday after melting snow and ice jams flooded the town.
updated 3/14/2007 6:26:05 PM ET 2007-03-14T22:26:05

Melting ice and snow sparked flooding in this small town early Wednesday that forced the evacuation of about 100 residents, many by boat.

The town was hit by flooding from two sides — north by overland flooding and from the west by the Little Minnesota River, which rose out of its banks. Witnesses said that in some areas the water was neck high and could be seen pouring into the first-floor windows of houses, but a foot or so was more common.

Volunteers in boats or wearing waders were shutting off propane tanks the size of small cars that were floating among the debris.

“It’s the worst I’ve ever seen, but everybody’s working together,” said Mayor Jeff Backer Jr. from the porch of his home. It was among the 35 to 50 houses in town damaged in the flood.

The American Red Cross was using a school for a shelter and called in extra volunteers from nearby Fergus Falls. Browns Valley, a town of 700, is located in the western portion of the state near the South Dakota line.

Sandy Biel said some people had to be evacuated from their homes in the large scoops of heavy earth-moving equipment. “They got it awfully bad,” she said.

Officials said everyone in the affected area was accounted for, and the water had already dropped 6 inches by midmorning.

The National Weather Service office in Aberdeen, S.D., attributed the flooding to excessive runoff from melting snow and ice jams that formed on the river Tuesday afternoon. Ice jams form when river currents pile up chunks of floating ice, restricting water flow.

Backer later said at a news conference that the town would need help to rebuild.

“We’re not a rich community,” he said. “We’re a poor community, an elderly community.”

Boats to the rescue
Ice melts prompted flooding in this small Minnesota town, with at least 100 residents rescued by boat and more on their way to safety Wednesday.

The American Red Cross was using a school for a shelter and called in extra volunteers from nearby Fergus Falls.

Both the north and west sides of Browns Valley were hit by flooding — the north side by overland flooding and the west side by the Little Minnesota River, which rose out of its banks.

Two highways were under water near the Western Minnesota town of 700 near the South Dakota line.

The National Weather Service office in Aberdeen, S.D., attributed the flooding to excessive runoff from melting snow and ice jams that formed on the river Tuesday afternoon. Ice jams form when river currents pile up chunks of floating ice, restricting water flow.

“It came down pretty fast,” said weather service technician Glenn Nielsen of the water that flooded the northern edge of town. He said downtown wasn’t affected.

Nielsen said the weather service didn’t have a gauge on the Little Minnesota at Browns Valley, so it was unclear how high the river was.

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