1965: Hastings’ high water mark
The worst recorded flooding in the history of Hastings occurred here 50 years ago, and the newspaper front pages from April 1965 paint a vivid picture of the damage that occurred and the lives that were affected.
Photographs show people being rescued from their homes in canoes, standing water two and three feet deep over a massive area and others standing on their doorsteps waiting for a boat to pick them and their belongings up.
There were two significant floods in the city that year. The first was in what was called the Westwood development, which included homes west of Vermillion Street and north of the Vermillion River. Streets included Oak, Maple, Walnut, Forest, Ashland and others.
“A placid creek most of the time, the Vermillion River at Hastings’ southern edge went out of its banks over the weekend, driving some 250 families from their homes so far,” read the Hastings Gazette on April 8, 1965. “In some places over a 42-block area, centered mainly in the Westwood housing development, water stands two and three feet deep.”
The southern area of Hastings wasn’t the only area affected by the flood that year.
“On top of the already disastrous situation came announcement Wednesday by the Weather Bureau that the Mississippi River is expected to crest near its 1952 record next week, threatening another part of Hastings, below the Milwaukee Railroad tracks,” the Gazette reported.
That prediction ended up being conservative. The 1965 flood had waters 16 inches above that record flood from 1952, the Gazette reported.
Families were evacuated from east Hastings as the Mississippi rose to record levels. In all, 28 families were evacuated.
“There was one resident, however, who rode out the flood without budging from his home, even though the water got over the floors one night,” the Gazette reported. “He was Al Hubley, 67, who has stayed in the house with a pet cat. … Hubley is an outdoorsman, so was able to survive comfortably without heat in the house. Because of the difficulty of getting to and from the home due to the water, he spent Saturday night at the home of his brother, Joe Hubley, so he could get to church Sunday morning.”
The winter of 1965 was an extreme one. There was heavy snowfall and a very cold March, which delayed the melt. Heavy rains came in April and then the snow began to melt and the entire state dealt with the water.
Dynamite was used in Granite Falls to break up an ice jam. An ice jam 24 feet over the river was reported near the Sartell dam. Seven thousand people were evacuated from their homes in Mankato (which had a population of 25,000 at the time).
Back in Hastings, ice was a big problem, too. Ice had piled up at the County Road 47 bridge, which led to the flooding here in the Westwood addition. That flood prompted a series of studies and eventually led to the construction of an overflow channel that should prevent serious flooding in the area in the future.
Dakota County was one of 39 Minnesota counties named a federal disaster.
The Gazette reported a number of interesting tidbits about the flood.
Here are some of them:
Wrapped in a waterproof bag
The Peter Mitzuk home at 1016 E. First St. will go down in the annals of Hastings flood lore as the house that was wrapped in plastic bag to keep the water out. (The Mitzuks) had just one payment left on the house. They were determined to keep the inside dry, and Mitzuk hit upon the idea of taking a 400-foot long and 16-foot wide roll of polyethylene and wrapping it around the house. When water pressure broke through the polyethylene twice at the basement windows, pumps had to be set up through an open window.
Mitzuk made national news with the attempt. We did a Google search on his efforts and found stories in the Milwaukee Journal, the Spokesman-Review in Spokane, Wash., the Des Moines Register and several other newspapers.
Floating deep freeze plugged in, gives jolt
Game warden Ken La Boone was assisting in one of the flooded houses and received a shock from a deep freeze which was floating around in the water but still plugged in.
“If I hadn’t had rubber boots on, I’d have gotten a real jolt,” he said.
Bridge at Coates out; train trestle teeters
There was a 150-foot ice backup by the railroad bridge in Empire Wednesday forenoon, the National Guard’s pilot reported, but the ice had broken up considerably by noon. Still, the bridge was reported in a tottering condition late Wednesday.
The highway bridge at Coates didn’t survive as long. It was one of Wednesday’s victims.
Water high as bed wakens basement dweller
A hysterical appeal for help was answered at a Maple Street residence at about 4 a.m. Monday.
The woman, home alone with her young son, was awakened by water as high as the basement bed she was sleeping on. She grabbed the son, threw a blanket around him and ran to the unfinished upstairs portion of the house to telephone for help. A Civil Defense rescuer was able to retrieve the woman’s purse from the basement, but nothing else was saved. The mother and son were taken to safety in their nightclothes.
To ambulance by boat
A Westwood child suffering from a bronchitis attack was rushed to Memorial Hospital shortly before noon Tuesday by means of both boat and ambulance. Rescue boaters took the child from the home to the water’s edge, arriving just as the ambulance got there to speed the child the remainder of the distance to the hospital.
Island remains high, dry
Twelve houses in the midst of the flooded area remain high and dry, though the residents must still use boats to get away. The small area of land is completely surrounded by water.
Said one of the “island” homeowners: “We may find our property value going up. We’ve got lake frontage now.”
Diver descends basement
Scuba diving equipment was put to good use by one Westwood home owner. He put it on and descended into his basement. Water was coming in one basement window and flowing out another, he said.
Four boys trying to canoe down the swirling waters of the flood-swollen Vermillion had to be rescued when their boat overturned Wednesday afternoon near the Alex Rossing home.
Waterproofing no good
At least one flooded-out home owner could still joke about the situation Wednesday.
He threatened to sue a local dealer. “He sold me water-proofing for my basement walls, and the water didn’t stay out.”
Countertops get wet
Water lapped at the countertops of the Sunnyside Cafe in south Hastings during the crest of the flood Tuesday.
Egg hunt cancelled due to mud
The annual Easter egg hunt sponsored by the Hastings Jaycees will not be held this year, the organization decided at its meeting Tuesday night.
Too much mud on the Kennedy School grounds was given as the reason for cancellation. It was decided that holding the hunt after Easter would be anti-climactic.