Six things to know about the 1978 flood

July 1, 2018 GMT

As water raged down Rochester streets on July 5-6, 1978, it left a lasting impression for many residents.

Thousands were forced out of their homes after storms caused creeks and the Zumbro River to swell to historic depths. They returned to find devastation in the water’s wake.

Here are a few things to know about the flood and its aftermath:

1 The Zumbro River crested at 23 feet.

When the river crested at noon on July 6, it was 19 feet higher than it had been 24 hours earlier and 11 feet above flood stage. It easily eclipsed the river’s second-highest recorded level, which was 19.32 feet in 1965.

The river had topped flood stage at least 20 times in 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.

2 Five people died.

When a local nursing home flooded, four people — three wheelchair-bound patients and a nurse’s aide — were trapped in the basement and died.

A rural Stewartville woman also died when her car plunged off a washed-out bridge.

3 Damage was estimated at $75 million.

At least 2,000 homes and 165 businesses sustained damage as the result of the flood.

4 Nearly 2,000 truckloads of debris were removed in three days.

Rochester’s Department of Public Service and private hauling companies joined forces through the weekend following the flood, picking up any items left at the curbside as residents worked to reclaim their homes.

Within two weeks, the city had picked up 10,000 tons of debris, which included 4,300 truck loads and 1,470 appliances.

5 City quickly started buying properties.

Eight days after the Zumbro River swelled, Rochester city officials started work on identifying properties needed to a planned flood-control project.

6 Twelve other counties were declared disaster areas.

Rochester wasn’t alone in feeling the effects of the 1978 flood.

In its aftermath, President Jimmy Carter declared a federal disaster area that covered Olmsted, Wabasha, Winona, Dodge, Fillmore, Goodhue, Mower, Houston, Dakota, Hennepin, Ramsey, Benton and Washington counties.