Before the storm. Eerie cloud formations of the storm as it headed into the Randall area. Looking northeast from County Road 6 near Lake Beauty. 1972 Flood, Morrison County, Minnesota. Photo by Gene Dubois for the Little Falls Daily Transcript. From the Morrison County Historical Society collections.
Before the storm. Eerie cloud formations of the storm as it headed into the Randall area. Looking northeast from County Road 6 near Lake Beauty. 1972 Flood, Morrison County, Minnesota. Photo by Gene Dubois for the Little Falls Daily Transcript. From the Morrison County Historical Society collections.

Between July 21 and July 22, 1972, Central Minnesota suffered a downpour that dropped six-to-fourteen inches of rain on Morrison County. The resulting flood caused around $9 million in damage and warranted a visit to the area from Governor Wendell Anderson. President Richard Nixon declared eleven counties in Central Minnesota, including Morrison, a federal disaster area.

Flood waters threatened the northeast side of Little Falls. Volunteers from around the city came to sandbag. Mayor Dr. Kenneth Flolid ordered Highway 371 be cut in order to divert water away from town and back toward the river. His decision was in defiance of state orders but was critical to limiting damage in the city.

Roads around the county were flooded; some were washed out. Homes were flooded as well. It was a dramatic event that pulled together communities, both in dealing with the flood and in the clean-up.

Betty Jelinski, whose family lived on the east side of Sebie Lake in Fort Ripley Township, wrote an account of her family’s experience of the flood. Her husband’s name is Wilfred. There were six kids in the family, ranging in age from 4 to 17. It was raining when the family went to bed. They couldn’t get settled due to the storm. According to Betty,

“How it got  from midnight to 3:30 a.m. July 22nd, I don’t know. It seemed I had just shut my eyes when I heard one of the girls say something about water. I didn’t move, thinking if I didn’t say anything, she would go back to sleep. Pretty soon I’m hearing “splash, splash” and she is coming down the hallway. I was up in a flash and stepped ankle deep in water. What the heck? I thought. The bedroom window looked out towards the lake and it was dusky out there, you really couldn’t see clear, but there was water everywhere and objects all over the lake. Something really big and long out towards the center. By this time everybody was up. Will put us in order. He would put 8 year old Shawn on his shoulders, Jeff would put 4 year old Shannon on  his shoulders, I’d be next with the rest of the kids in a file order. When I hit the ground the water was right under my armpits. Scared?? You bet. Will led us to the shoreline, which we walked along, going south. We walked in front of the Stanley Miller cabin just as their big speedboat gurgled under the water, to be seen no more. We continued up the hill to the Gene Gehman cabin and knocked at their door. When Gene came, he  immediately said, “What’s the matter?” It didn’t take long to explain the situation and, of course, up here on the hill, they were “high and dry.””

Since publishing an article about the 1972 flood in a 2014 issue of the Morrison County Historical Society newsletter, we’ve heard a number of stories, including Betty’s, about the flood from those who lived through it. As there were no deaths caused by the flood, everyone in the county at the time lived through it, although there were a couple of close calls. Two-year-old Clinton Holsapple walked into the Mississippi River south of Little Falls and was rescued by LeeAnn Maslowski, who saw him enter the  river and went in after him without a thought to her own safety. She received a commendation from the American National Red Cross for her heroism a year after the flood.

Jim Hurd slipped into the Mississippi River while reviewing the sandbagging efforts on the northeast side of Little Falls. He caught a rope that had been strung for safety and was pulled out.

Because this dramatic natural disaster is still within the memories of so many people, now is a great time to gather those memories. We urge you to leave your personal stories about the 1972 flood in the comments.

The Morrison County Historical Society is fortunate to have a large number of 1972 flood photos in its collections. We present them here, along with some sent in by contributors,  as an online exhibit.



6 Replies to “1972 Flood in Morrison County, MN”

  1. If I’m not mistaken Dr. Robert Nordberg died as a result of the 1972 flood. His interment is located at Oakland Cemetery in Little Falls, Mn.

    1. Thanks, Brian. While the Oakland Cemetery Records do list the cause of death as drowning due to the 1972 flood, Dr. Nordberg’s obituary and earlier newspaper articles indicate he died from the effects of an electrical shock he received on July 30, 1972. According to the Little Falls Daily Transcript from Wednesday, July 31, 1972, “(t)he accident apparently occurred about 3 p.m. Sunday, when Dr. Nordberg was reportedly working on an electric irrigation pump at his home. He suffered a severe electric shock.” (Dr. R. Nordberg ‘Critical’ After Electrical Shock) Ann Marie, Curator of Collections

  2. I was a senior in high school and remember it well. Sandbagged till I couldn’t lift anymore. KLTF radio got permission to stay on the air to report on the floor past normal operating times. Scary is an understatement..

  3. I got married in Randall at St. Peter’s Lutheran Church at 7pm. It had started raining around 5. After the wedding, we had a little reception in the basement of the church. Some left early to go out to where the wedding dance was to be held. We were about the last ones to leave the church after saying goodbye to others not going to the dance hall. As we tried several roads to get there, we were turned around because of flooding. When we finally realized how bad it really was getting, we had to give up trying and went back to my sister and brother in laws house in Randall (Jack and Linda Olson) because Jack worked for the county and might have a suggestion on what roads to take. When we got to their house, they were bailing water out of the house. Jack and my new husband Glen changed their tux and worked on trying to save their home. We finally left their house driving on flooded roads going toward St. Cloud. Got stuck several times until a firetruck near Darling church pushed us until we were out of danger.

    We ended up getting a room in St. Cloud and later having to go back to our apartment to empty out water soaked luggage and dry out the Camero before going on our honeymoon. Linda and Jack’s house was pretty much destroyed…tuxes probably ended up in the river. Luckily we had purchased insurance on them) My Grandmother Elizabeth Warnke’s house had water about 5 foot high in her house. The friends and family that left the church early that night to go to the wedding dance (I can’t remember the location) ended up having to spend about 2 nights there before roads were cleared enough to go home.

    1. What a dramatic way to share your married life, Connie! Thanks so much for sharing your story of the 1972 Flood.

      Mary Warner
      Executive Director

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