OWATONNA, Minn. —Cindy Dorsey has lived near the Straight River in southern Minnesota for 15 years and never handled a sandbag before Friday.
But the river's swift rise from heavy rain forced Dorsey to learn quickly and, after rising at dawn, she had placed at least 200 of the bags outside her Owatonna home to protect it.
"It's going to be one heck of a cleanup," said Dorsey as she watched water lap against the sandbags. "Let's hope it's just getting rid of the sandbags."
Several towns across southern Minnesota and southwest Wisconsin grappled with a flood threat brought on by a powerful storm system that dumped almost a half-foot of rain on the region a day earlier. Hundreds of homes were evacuated, including 70 in Owatonna, a town of 24,000 about 65 miles south of Minneapolis.
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Friday was dry for much of the region, giving a respite to emergency workers dealing with the flooding. But rain was back in the regional forecast for today, though not nearly as much as Thursday's downpours.
In the Wisconsin town of Arcadia, about 90 minutes east of Owatonna, water was receding from downtown Friday. Businesses were open and drawing crowds. A day after emergency officials evacuated 343 homes, some residents were returning as the creeks that flooded downtown dipped.
People living in homes just northwest of the Trempealeau River were asked to leave as the river rose near the top of Arcadia's two main bridges.
"I'm not freaking out," said Andrew Droullard, who stood on the sidewalk in front of his River Street home, about a half-block from the river. "We're in a swamp. That's all it is."
Droullard watched brown water fill the street.
The 56-year-old handyman said he had 4 feet of water in his basement. He moved his belongings off his floor and packed his truck with essentials in case he had to leave.
"Just watch and wait," said Droullard's neighbor, Jerrod Skilling, 21, a roofer. "Hope for the best."