Floodwater fills S&F Furniture store, first floor of Super 8 Motel – West Central Tribune

“Everything,’’ said Dave Burns of the damage.

Water about a foot deep filled the entire store and warehouse at daybreak Thursday, soaking into the furniture, floor covering and household accessories offered by the store that first opened in 1968. Watermarks showed it probably reached about knee-height in portions of the building at its peak during the night. Burns is the husband of Connie Burns, who is co-owner of the store with her mother, Agnes Schwanke.

Schwanke said the store had never suffered this extent of water damage since its opening in 1968, although she said worries about water impounding here have been longstanding. Her husband Virgil had spoken at public hearings held by the Willmar planning commission and city council in 2000 about the concerns.

“We’ve tried to get the ditch open,’’ said Connie Burns. “Grass Lake should have been done a long time ago,’’ she added.

Schwanke said the store did not have flood insurance, although she had carried it years ago. She said she had been informed the business was no longer in a flood zone.

The landscape has changed at the site too, Burns and Schwanke noted. The North American Bank building constructed next door a few years ago is higher than the furniture store, so the water has less area to spread out than formerly. Also, the construction of the Menard’s Store and parking lot has increased the amount of impervious surface in the area.

Dave Burns said there is no way to estimate the value of the damaged goods at this point, but he noted that only a very small portion of the overall inventory escaped the water.

Burns said he had checked on the store at 8:30 p.m. Water was ponding near the ditch at the west side of the property, but it had not reached the building. He arrived after 6 a.m. today to find water filling the entire property.

Employees arriving for work watched, and some helped as they could, but the clean up will have to wait until the water drains away, they noted.

Super 8 moves guests to upper floor

Guests were moved in the night as rising waters gushed through the doors and filled the first floor of the Super 8 Motel on South Willmar Avenue Thursday.

Water filled the parking lot and began pouring through the front door and nearby side door around 10 p.m. on Wednesday, said Dave Baker, motel owner. “It was coming down the stairs like a waterfall,’’ he said. “That’s when I knew I kind of lost the battle.’’

Employees had called Baker earlier, and they alerted 10 guests on the first floor. They were able to move the guests into rooms on the upper floor. “Phenomenal,’’ said Baker of how the guests had responded to the disruption. Staff put together a breakfast on the second floor Thursday morning as Baker and other workers assessed the damage and clean up ahead.

There are 15 rooms on the first floor, and it was only one year ago that new carpeting and other upgrades had been installed in them. Guest Doug Allie of Phoenix, Arizona, was staying at the motel while running a water attraction at the Kandiyohi County Fair. He provided a water pump to help remove water from the motel.

He likened the torrential rains that struck Wednesday night to the “monsoons’’ that sometimes strike Phoenix.

Baker, a state representative from Willmar, said the experience is a first hand look at the challenges that victims of natural disasters face. He does not know the financial toll to the business. He said he is checking with his insurance provider on what might be covered, but there was not a flood insurance policy on the property.

His goal is to get everything cleaned, repaired and replaced on the first floor as quickly as possible. The Super 8 remains open.  

The motel was built 35 years ago, and he has owned it for 13 years. He has had water pond in the parking lot in previous years, but never so much that it reached the doors. “Nothing like this,’’ said Baker.

The storm struck during a busy month for the motel, and a hectic time for Baker. Friday is the Dan Baker Memorial Golf Tournament to raise funds for the foundation he founded after his son’s death of an opiate overdose in March 2011.

“Disheartening,’’ Baker said of his first reaction to the waters that filled the first floor. Yet he was also heartened by the response of many, from the guest who provided a water pump to the employees who arrived Thursday morning. He said they came with smiles and a determination to get things cleaned up.


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