Minnesota man loses longtime home after flood caused by Rapidan dam break

David Hruska awoke Monday to the roar of a dam near his Minnesota home — something he’s woken up to thousands of times in the 44 years he’s lived there. But that day, his sister and brother-in-law knocked on his door, asking him to come and see the destruction going on outside.

He ran out to find the 600 feet of land between his house in Mankato and the Rapidan Dam torn apart, taking down a power substation and trees. Rising water in the Blue Earth River breached part of the dam, and floodwaters washed away portions of the surrounding land. His sister and brother-in-law watched the chaos unfold from the family restaurant, a few feet from Hruska’s home, before waking him and his dad.

As his basement flooded, Hruska said he ran to his sister’s house two miles away to collect family photos, clothes and guns, where his dad joined him. One side of the three-bedroom house soon hung over a cliff, a few feet above floodwaters. Hruska said he was watching the news the next night when he saw his house had collapsed onto a cliff and was washed away with building parts, tree branches and concrete.

The damage was part of the flooding that hit the Midwest last weekend and early this week. While floods have damaged the Rapidan Dam in the past, Hruska told The Washington Post that she never imagined her home would be affected.

“It’s not easy, but it hasn’t really sunk in yet,” Hruska, 44, said of losing the only home she’s ever lived in. “We’re still in shock.”

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Hruska said he was confident his family’s restaurant, about 15 feet from the cliff’s edge, would not fall into the river either. His parents took over the store, known as the Rapidan Dam, soon after buying the house in 1972, and it became known locally for its homemade pies.

Hruska said she and her older sister, Jenny Barnes, helped clean the tables when they were kids and enjoyed the strawberry rhubarb pie their mom, Linda, baked. At home, Hruska said she likes the sound of river water lapping against a nearby cliff as the house’s windows vibrate. He often went down to the river to kayak and fish.

In the early 2000s, Hruska said he and Barnes took over the store. Hruska grilled the burgers while Barnes baked 60 pie flavors by hand. “Dam Site’s Best Dam Shop!” They made t-shirts.

The smell of grilling burgers wafted across Mankato, about 65 miles southwest of Minneapolis. But most people came to the store for the pies, which Barnes dubbed “damn pies.” Chocolate Caramel Pecan quickly became a customer favorite, Hruska said.

Barnes eventually walked two miles with her husband Hruska stayed with her 84-year-old father, Jim, in her childhood home.

But when storms created flooding in Minnesota last weekend, Barnes and Hruska watched the river water from the store. Hruska said he didn’t understand the gravity of the situation until early Monday morning, when he saw water rushing over the dam for the first time in his life. Barnes was there Baking pieces that morning in preparation for opening the store that day, Hruska said, but the store hasn’t been open since Sunday because of the flooding.

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Hruska said he accepted that his house would fall when a nearby substation was demolished. Neighbors helped her grab things from her house and load them into trailers, Hruska said.

Hruska said her home insurance won’t cover the costs of the destruction. Although his neighbor A started GoFundMe page To help him find a new place, he said he and his dad didn’t know where else to live.

But Hruska said he knows what to do if his store goes under water: He and Barnes will reopen it elsewhere.

“That’s all we have left,” he said.

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