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The 1965 flooding of Carver County

In April 1965, the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers crested at record levels, flooding cities and towns across the Upper Midwest. The disaster was especially evident in Chaska and Carver.

Flooding in Chaska, 1965.
Flooding in Chaska, 1965.
Carver County Historical Society

Prior to the flood of 1965, the Minnesota River’s highest level at Chaska was 29.1 feet, recorded in 1952. In 1953, a dike was constructed that measured a foot and a half above the 1952 flood level. As snow melted and the river began to rise in the spring of 1965, it was soon evident that the river would exceed the dike.

At various points along the Minnesota River, as well as other bodies of water, designated residents measured the water level with river gauges and reported their findings to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Emil Teske was a river gauge operator in Carver County during the 1965 flood. He reported that the river level was 7.40 feet on April 5. Two days later, the river had risen nearly 10 feet. The community was warned that the water would exceed flood levels by the following week. Emergency trucks hauled fill to add to the height of the dike.

As the river continued to rise, residents of Chaska and Carver were encouraged to evacuate. On April 12, at 8 p.m., the Minnesota River crested at 34.25 feet. The water stayed at this height through the next day. A total of 57 homes and 20 businesses in Carver were heavily damaged. Two hundred and forty-two homes and 14 commercial buildings in Chaska were damaged. Many residents were reluctant to evacuate, not knowing that the flood waters would reach above the second floors of many homes.

Residents made a special effort to protect the new Carver County courthouse. Hundreds of people filled sandbags and used them to create a wall surrounding the building. The hard work of the volunteers paid off, and the courthouse was saved.

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Carver and 38 other Minnesota counties were declared disaster areas in the days following the flood. The American Red Cross provided assistance to the families and businesses affected. The flood also created an estimated $400,000 (in 1965 cost estimates) in damages to local highways. Dynamite was used to break up large chunks of ice that traveled quickly down the river and struck the pillars of the highway bridge. The water also damaged guard rail posts and the road surface, causing parts of it to be carried away.

Less than a month after the flood, Carver County was hit by a series of tornados. County-wide building and property losses amounted to nearly four million dollars.

For more information on this topic, check out the original entry on MNopedia.