Sat. Jul 13th, 2024

RAPIDAN TOWNSHIP, Minn. — The raging Blue Earth River, which caused an abutment of the 114-year-old Rapidan Dam to partially fail, has now swallowed most of the iconic home that sits on a nearby embankment amid Minnesota’s historic flooding.

Blue Earth County officials say the collapse occurred on Tuesday evening and they continue to monitor for possible impacts downstream. Officials will give an update on the situation Wednesday at 10 a.m.

The dam is located about 14 miles south of Mankato, just north of the County Road 9 Bridge.

WCCO spoke on Monday with Jenny Barnes, whose family has owned the home and nearby Rapidan Dam Store for more than 50 years. As she was baking pies to sell that morning, she heard the river take out a nearby Xcel Energy substation.

“It’s very close to the house. We had to evacuate this morning, get as much as we could out. All the freezers and such,” Barnes said. “It’s my childhood. I grew up in the house, I grew up in the dam store. I’ve been there all my life.”

AW Aerial

Rapid erosion soon carved the ground below the home, leaving its east side hanging over a cliff.

“For some people, this is a historic monument. For us, it’s a life-altering event,” said resident Shannon Whittet.

John Lippmann, who grew up in Mankato, says he cherishes his childhood memories of the store.

“We grew up going there and getting pie. I mean, do a route, get a Pepsi, get a little ice cream, and used to go play in the river down there,” Lippmann said.

The dam remains in “imminent failure condition,” according to county officials, but the threat of a breach has diminished. On Tuesday, Sheriff Jeff Wersal said the water level in a “catastrophic event would not be that significant.”

If there is a full collapse of the dam, county leaders say the river could rise another 2 feet or so. There is a levee system protecting the city and officials are confident it will hold up.

The Blue Earth County Historical Society says the dam opened in 1910, doubling Mankato’s electric power capacity.

The National Inventory of Dams rated the dam in poor condition as of April 2023, classifying its hazard potential as “significant.”

The Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission are still assessing the damage.

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