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Family that lost home to flooded river vows to keep store open as floodwaters devastate Midwest

DES MOINES, Iowa — A family who saw their house collapse into a flooded river near an endangered river Minnesota Dam promises to reopen their nearby store to sell homemade pies and burgers as soon as it is safe to do so.

The Rapidan Dam Store remained standing Wednesday, but after the house where its owners, Jenny Barnes and brother David Hruska, grew up the day before collapsed into the Blue Earth River near Mankato, they’re not quite sure what’s next.

“We don’t know what will happen,” said a post on the store’s Facebook page Wednesday evening, adding that it was a difficult experience. “The Dam Store has not sold its last burger or cake.”

The disappearance of that house in the river and the hundreds of flood-damaged or destroyed homes elsewhere in the upper Midwest are among the first property casualties of extreme weather gripping the region as the water moves south.

Parts of Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota and Minnesota have been under siege by flooding since last week due to heavy rains. a suffocating heat wave. Up to 46 centimeters of rain has fallen in some areas, pushing some rivers to record levels. Hundreds of people have been rescued and at least two people have died after driving into flooded areas.

In Iowa, more and more cities prepared for flooding. The west fork of the Des Moines River in Humboldt was expected to crest at nearly 16 feet Thursday night. About 200 homes and 60 businesses in Humboldt could be affected, officials said.

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In the coming days, Nebraska and northwestern Missouri are expected to start feeling the downstream impacts of the flooding. Many streams and rivers may not peak until later this week. The Missouri River will peak near Omaha on Thursday, said Kevin Low, a hydrologist with the National Weather Service.

Some of the most stunning images are of the water flowing around the Minnesota Dam.

Jessica Keech and her 11-year-old son saw part of their house near the dam fall into the river on Tuesday night. They had been in the area many times to view the dam and enjoy cake from the Dam Store.

“It just kind of got sucked into the water. Just literally disappeared,” said Keech, from nearby New Ulm.

Blue Earth County officials said Wednesday that the river had cut wider and deeper into the bank, and they were concerned about the integrity of a nearby bridge over the river. After the flooding subsides, the county must decide whether to repair the dam or possibly remove it — with both options costing millions of dollars.

President Joe Biden spoke by phone with Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz to discuss the impact on the Rapidan Dam and the Federal Emergency Management Agency had arrived in Minnesota, White House officials said.

Preliminary information from the National Weather Service shows that recent flooding has caused record high river levels at more than a dozen locations in South Dakota and Iowa, surpassing previous crests by an average of about 3 feet.

In southeastern South Dakota, Canton residents were busy cleaning up after receiving 18 to 20 inches (46 to 51 centimeters) of rain in just 36 hours last week. A creek next to Lori Lems and her husband’s 20-acre property flooded the playground they built in their backyard for their grandchildren.

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Lems, a 62-year-old former grocery store and wedding venue owner, said she has lived in the town of 3,200 people all her life and has never seen rain as heavy as last week.

“We felt like we were in a hurricane-like rain,” she said. “It was just incredible.”

Farther south, in North Sioux City, South Dakota, the floods collapsed power poles and trees, and some homes were washed off their foundations. There was no water, sewer, gas or electricity service in that area, Union County Emergency Management said in a Facebook post Tuesday.

In the Sioux City, Iowa, area, water overflowed the Big Sioux River levee, damaging hundreds of homes, officials estimated. And the local wastewater treatment plant has been so overwhelmed by floodwaters that officials say they have to dump about 3.8 million gallons of untreated sewage into the Missouri River every day.

Numerous roads were closed due to the flooding, including Interstates 29 and 680 in Iowa near the Nebraska line.

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Collins reported from Hartford, Connecticut. Associated Press journalists Summer Ballentine in Jefferson City, Missouri, John Hanna in Topeka, Kansas, and Lisa Baumann in Bellingham, Washington, contributed to this report.

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