July third wettest on record

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July 2016 will go down as the third wettest in history for Benson and was the 10th wettest month on record. During the month 8.59 inches of rain fell – 5.03 inches more than July’s average of 3.56 inches.

Only 1994 with 9.57 inches of rain and 1962 with 8.97 inches of rain top 2016 for July rainfall.

July also became the 10th wettest month since local records started being kept back in 1952.

June 1952 saw 12.5 inches of rain, the most of any month in any year. Ten inches of the month’s total rainfall fell between June 22 and June 28 with 7 inches of that coming in just two days.

June 23 saw a cloudburst of rain that dropped 5 inches of rain in four hours, flooding streets and basements in Benson. In Swift Falls, the bridge over the Chippewa River was washed out. Farmland along the Chippewa was flooded as the river overflowed its banks.

June 1953’s 10.45 inches of rain ranks it second for total June rainfall. That year, 8.45 inches of the fell in an 11- day period near the end of the month. The rainfall created considerable flooding along the Chippewa River and Shakopee Creek.

Then Minnesota U.S. Sen. Hubert Humphrey came to see the damage caused to area crops by the flooding. Humphrey contacted the head of the Army Corp of Engineers to request a survey of the flooding and said that when he returned to Washington, D.C., he would seek relief assistance for the area.   He was accompanied by state Rep. A.I. Johnson of Benson.

Flood of 1867

While June 1952’s rainfall holds a record that goes back 64 years, and probably much longer, it doesn’t compare to the almost biblical flooding that occurred back in 1867.

It was three years before Benson would become a city. It was a time when there were few white settlers in the region among the area’s Native Americans.

Among the pioneers was George B. Wright, a land surveyor traveling the area by horseback with his crew. Around noon July 17, 1867, a thunderstorm rolled across the prairie bringing thunder and lightening as well as wind, causing the crew to take shelter from what they must of thought would be just another summer storm. It wasn’t.

“In the beginning the rain fell at a moderate rate before increasing and continued into the next day,” University of Minnesota Climatologist Mark Seeley writes in the Minnesota Weather Almanac column. “Wright reported the storm lasted around 30 hours; with settlers further north and east saying it continued for 36 hours.

“When the rain ceased and the low clouds lifted on the morning of July 19, Wright and his crew saw nothing but broad sheets of water covering the landscape.

“Foaming torrents streamed from upland areas down lines of drainage and poured into both the Chippewa and Pomme de Terre Valleys. The Chippewa River had been flowing 1 to 3 feet deep and a channel width of 12 to 20 feet; a typical summer flow. After the storm it ranged from 900 feet between the bluffs and three or four miles on flats. Field notes even four weeks after the storm show that the Chippewa was still more than 600 feet wide over the flood plain, its main channel depth on the order of 15 to 20 feet.

“Pioneer settlers encountered by Wright and his crew . . . estimated the storm’s total rainfall to range from 30 to 36 inches, figures based on the catch in empty barrels left in open areas away from buildings and trees,” Seeley writes.

With the first newspapers in Swift County not published until the early 1880s, there are no local accounts of the storm. But based on Wright’s journal, it is not hard to believe that much of Benson and Appleton, and quite a bit of what lies between, would have been under water...


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