Video: Rapidan Dam house collapses into river in southern Minnesota (2024)

A large portion of a house teetering on the edge of the Blue Earth River near the Rapidan Dam fell into the water late Tuesday, according to authorities.

"A portion of the house on the property closest to the Rapidan Dam has been undercut enough to have fallen into the river," the Blue Earth County Sheriff's Office said in a statement. "Blue Earth County Public Works, Emergency Management and Sheriff's Office are monitoring for downstream impacts."

The house belongs to an area family that has operated the Rapidan Dam Store for decades. The store has a café well known by residents in the area for its pies and hamburgers.

Jenny Barnes, who makes the pies, and her brother, David Hruska, who makes the hamburgers, visited their childhood home Tuesday afternoon in the hours before the house collapsed.

Barnes, whose father, Jim Hruska, bought the cafe in 1972, said on Tuesday that she had been mentally preparing herself to lose her childhood home.

"We know we're losing the house," Barnes said next to the house on Tuesday afternoon. "We know that for sure. There's no going back inside the house."

Barnes said she had been in the dam store after midnight on Monday morning, making pies for the next day.

That's when she heard a loud boom. She ran out and saw that water was rushing over the top of the Rapidan Dam, just a few dozen yards away. She recalled hearing more explosions and saw sparks flying as water tore into an electrical substation near the dam and eventually pulled it into the river.

David Hruska said he and his father were in the house that night when the dam started overflowing. He said someone woke him up and told him to go outside. There he saw a shed owned by the county fall into the river.

They did not know it at the time, but floodwaters fed by recent rains had swept dead trees into the dam, jamming its five steel gates. The Rapidan Dam hasn't produced electricity in a number of years after floods in 2019 and 2020 rendered it inoperable.

Early Monday night, rushing water, part of the second-strongest flood ever recorded at the dam, carved a channel around the dam's west edge, washing away the soft earth.

The family called 911 and had just a half hour or so to evacuate the house and save family photos and other possessions gathered over decades. The family is now staying at Barnes' home, 2 miles away.

The dam has held since getting swamped earlier this week, with water flowing over and around the structure and relieving some of the pressure, county officials said.

"We believe it's intact and it will hold," Blue Earth County Emergency Management Director Eric Weller told the Star Tribune early Tuesday.

June rains in the Mankato area flooded basem*nts and closed numerous roadways along the Minnesota River, which crested Wednesday at 29.7 feet, according to a statement from the city of Mankato.

Weller said Wednesday the county was hearing from engineers the river was too high for major work to shore up the west abutment. "We need the water to go down so we can do emergency stabilization," he said.

On Tuesday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission sent a letter to Blue Earth County asking to discuss risk reduction steps needed to prevent a complete breach of the dam from the eroded river. The letter, distributed to media early Wednesday and signed by regional engineer Kevin Griebenow, said the county "must consider methods to reduce the debris blockage at the gated spillway section."

"Further stabilization measures will be necessary once the immediate threat to the project has passed," wrote Griebenow, who in June had informed the county that the Rapidan Dam passed a FERC inspection.

Minnesota officials are reminding residents to stay safe amid the flooding.

"As we watch the house that was on that cliffside and the erosion of the hillside there I think it just goes to show how incredibly powerful that water is. It's just a reminder on how important it is to stay away from any moving water and things can rapidly change in a very, very split second," T. John Cunningham, an assistant commissioner with the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, said at a news conference on Wednesday.

Video: Rapidan Dam house collapses into river in southern Minnesota (3)

Video: Rapidan Dam house collapses into river in southern Minnesota (4)

Jp Lawrence

David Hruska visits his childhood home Tuesday before it collapsed due to erosion caused by flooding of nearby Rapidan Dam.

David Hruska said his father, Jim Hruska, has not been taking the loss of the house well. He said his father wanted to stay at the house Monday night, even after everything that had happened. On Tuesday, he said his father did not want to see the house at all.

David Hruska said his father has dementia, adding that his dad must also be dealing with denial that a home filled with five decades of memories would be lost.

"He knows, but I don't know if he wants to believe it," David Hruska said.

He paused. "I've been that way too," he said. "Hard to believe what's going on."

But both siblings said they plan to continue with the store as long as Mother Nature and the county comply.

"We're going to reopen, we're going to keep selling those burgers and pie and milkshakes," Barnes said.

"We have no plans of not opening the dam store," David Hruska said. "The dam store's going to stay going, as long as we have the say to do it."

Star Tribune staff writer Walker Orenstein contributed to this story.

Video: Rapidan Dam house collapses into river in southern Minnesota (2024)


Why did the Rapidan Dam fail? ›

As water flows peaked, debris plugged parts of the structure and the west abutment of the dam partially failed. Conditions around the dam spun a current that was too vicious for workers to cross safely to clear the detritus.

What river does Rapidan Dam flow into? ›

Rapidan Dam in a 'state of disrepair'

The Blue Earth River has cut around the west side of the dam, carrying debris and causing power outages, the county said Monday, noting that there was a “partial failure on the west abutment.”

What river is flooding in Minnesota? ›

The Mississippi, Minnesota and St. Croix rivers are expected to crest over the weekend. St. Paul declared a state of emergency and has closed off several roads with the Mississippi being in a major flood stage until early next week.

What happens if the Rapidan Dam breaks? ›

Blue Earth County 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.

Is the Rapidan Dam still standing? ›

As of Wednesday moring, the dam is still intact and there are no plans for a larger evacuation. Officials said that there had been a partial failure on the west abutment.

What type of dam is the Rapidan Dam? ›

The Rapidan Dam is a concrete gravity dam located on the Blue Earth River in Rapidan Township southwest of Mankato, Minnesota in the United States. The dam was constructed for hydroelectric power generation from 1908 to 1910.

Where does the Rapidan River start and end? ›

The two rivers converge just west of the city of Fredericksburg. The Rapidan River begins west of Doubletop Mountain in Shenandoah National Park where the Mill Prong meets the Laurel Prong at Rapidan Camp, approximately 3 miles (4.8 km) south of Big Meadows.

Where is the Blue Earth River? ›

The Blue Earth River begins in northern Iowa and meets with the West Branch Blue Earth River in Faribault County in southern Minnesota.

What county is Rapidan, MN in? ›

Is there a river in Minnesota that flows north? ›

The Red River of the North flows northward 550 miles from its source in Breckenridge, Minnesota to Lake Winnipeg in Canada, and forms most of the border between Minnesota and North Dakota. Be aware that this river touches two states and also crosses into Canada.

What state has the most river floods? ›

When coastal flooding and riverine flooding are broken down into two separate entities, New Jersey, New York and Virginia top the list for biggest coastal impacts, while the Lone Star State, Louisiana and California rank highest for the potential of losses during riverine events.

What was the most destructive river flood in US history? ›

The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 was the most destructive river flood in the history of the United States, with 27,000 square miles (70,000 km2) inundated in depths of up to 30 feet (9 m) over the course of several months in early 1927.

What caused the Oroville Dam spillway to fail? ›

The Association of State Dam Safety Officials (ASDSO) stated that, “The Oroville Dam spillway incident was caused by a long-term systemic failure to recognize and address inherent spillway design and construction weaknesses, poor foundation bedrock quality, and deteriorated service spillway chute conditions.” It is now ...

Which factors contributed to the failure of the St Francis Dam fail? ›

Although opinions vary, more recent and more thorough investigations assign the ultimate failure mode to weakening of the left abutment foundation rock due to the saturated condition created by the reservoir which essentially re-activated a large landslide that combined with a destabilizing uplift force on the main dam ...

What was the major reason that the South Forks dam in Pennsylvania failed in 1889? ›

The South Fork Dam, as it became known, experienced a catastrophic failure on May 31, 1889 when it was overtopped during a large storm event.

What is the most controversial dam in the United States? ›

The Lower Snake River Dams

The four dams on the lower portion of the river—Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose, and Lower Granite—are among the most controversial dams in America. The dams prevent juvenile salmon from swimming downstream and adult salmon from returning to their spawning grounds.

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