Volunteers race to fill sandbags as Rainy Lake rises, destroying waterfront property in wake

By KBJR News 1

June 13, 2014 Updated Jun 13, 2014 at 6:25 PM CDT

International Falls, MN (NNCNOW.com) - As the Thunderbird Lodge fishing guides set out on the swollen, yet placid waters of Rainy Lake Friday morning, resort owner Rod Haanen described the scene as night and day when compared to Thursday's 45 mph wind gusts and heavy rains.

With most of the resort's docks underwater, Haanen says his guests have already had to pull their boats out of the water nightly.

"Then you get winds," noted Haanen, standing inches from where the dock was consumed by the lake, "and winds will tip them over and destroy them."

Haanen and his team have already lined the docks with water–laden barrels and over 250 sandbags in an effort to secure them on their cribs.

But with no docks lost to the rising waters yet, Koochiching County Sheriff Brian Jespersen says they're lucky.

"And we lost many, many docks," said Jespersen, standing in front of piles of sandbags, "I got reports of people losing their boats, because they got swamped."

On Thursday Jespersen put out the community–wide call for volunteers to mobilize at City Beach, and fill about 2,500 sandbags.

"We're going to need a lot of bags," Jespersen yelled to the crowd at at City Beach.

On Friday, anywhere from 600 to 1,000 of those bags were expected to make their way, by truck and foot, up the road.

"There is an elderly couple that lives just down the way, here, on the lake. Their home is very much in danger of flooding out," said volunteer Melissa, who is from the area, "and so, the emergency now is to get over there, and get their home shored up, so that we can save their home."

Jespersen says Rainy Lake's residents are fortunate the lake is rising gradually, which allows them to be proactive.

But with more rain in the forecast, and everything from Ash River to Kabetogama Lake flowing into Rainy, Jespersen says they need to be.

"And we know the water is gonna come up," said Jespersen,"It's just a matter of how much at this point."

Jespersen warns that boaters should avoid night travel, and be on the lookout for floating debris throughout the lake.

The Koochiching County Sheriff's office urges anyone in the area that needs help fending off flooding water to contact the sheriff's office.

Billy Wagness
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