HOKAH — Como Falls is destroyed.

The damage done by torrential rainfalls Monday night into Tuesday washed away an entire hillside to the right of Como Falls, a waterfall on Thompson Creek, making a whole new path for the water that no longer flows over the falls.

The rainfall totals didn’t set records in Hokah — the 2007 flood set a Minnesota record with 15.1 inches of rain recorded in a 24-hour period — but the damage to the park is much more severe, police chief Bob Schuldt said.

“This is two or three times worse,” he said.

Beginning Monday and continuing into Tuesday morning, record-breaking rain falls in some areas of Houston County and western Wisconsin caused flooding across counties in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Winona County wasn’t hit, but estimations of rainfall in Caledonia came in at nearly 9½ inches, National Weather Service meteorologist Todd Shea said, and western Wisconsin got about 8-12 inches.

Hokah recorded 7.6 inches, about half of what fell in 2007. But the rising waters from Thompson Creek and the nearby Root River left their mark.

Standing at the end of the park pathway — only 100 feet from where it began just past Hokah’s fire department building — Hokah resident Brenda Barnes stared out over a landfill of washed out sand, rock and fallen trees resembling nothing like the picturesque view that has been a place of weddings, baby showers, graduation parties, quiet moments of contemplation and gatherings of friends.

It was her first time seeing the damage. The shock was evident on her face.

“This is irreplaceable,” Barnes said in nearly a gasp. “There is no falls.”

Water, which used to flow over the falls into a small pool and then under a wooden bridge, carved its way several feet below the falls, flowing into a wide lake. Only 50 feet away from a park bench buried on its side stands the Como Falls Park sign, the lone reminder of what this place used to be.

Right now, the city can’t focus on what it will take to rebuild the falls — or if it’s even possible. The immediate concern is the handful of houses just feet from the edge of the 20- or 30-foot drop.

“The falls is secondary to the houses,” Schuldt said. “There’s fear of losing a house or two because it’s eroding on that hillside.”

It’s too soon to get an estimation of damage, but Schuldt said off the top of his head that it may hit $1 million.

Explaining more of what happened to cause such damage, Shea said the “worst case scenario” happened where a line of thunderstorms hit the area, each front dumping several inches of water.

“It looks like a train,” he said.

And it’s exactly what happened in 2007 when flooding devastated southeastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

“We had a lot of places breaking their rainfall records and there were river levels that were set,” Shea said. “In a lot of cases (it broke) their 24-hour rainfall records.”

Shea added that, thankfully, they haven’t heard of any fatalities.

“We’re very fortunate,” he said.

Walking slowly through the park while smoking a tobacco pipe, 87-year-old Alden Sandven took in the scene at the beloved park for the first time.

“My God,” he said.

He’s lived in town for 40 years. He helped put in the wooden bridge that now is stranded in mud and he helped put up birdhouses within trees that are now laying flat on the ground.

“Christ’s sake,” he said in a frustrated tone. “It sure raised hell down here.”

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(1) comment

Tommy Duncan

A note to Tesla Mitchell: "Right" and "left" are relative terms. We don't know where you are standing when you say "to the right of Como Falls".

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