Monday, August 29, 2011

Flood Damage in Pierre, SD - summer of 2011

Our daughter lives in Pierre, SD and we were happy to go pay her a visit. Pierre has had a very trying summer (as have other areas downstream on the Missouri River) due to the unprecedented releases of water from Oahe Dam. Water levels on the normally tame river below the dam (which was built, ironically for flood control and power generation), rose many feet and as a result, homes and businesses in Pierre that were never thought to be flood prone were submerged.

There was very little warning of this calamity, only a few days, but the entire city worked together to build sandbag dykes along the river and around homes. Some of the big bags you see above weigh over 2,000 pounds!

Imagine the effort that it took to build these sand walls -- quickly! Water rose close to the top of these at the highest level, but unfortunately, these levels lasted several weeks. As a result, pumps had to be used to try and keep water from seeping behind the bags (you can see the gutter downspouts routed outside the dyke).

Most of these lovely homes are not yet re-occupied and I am afraid the damage will be severe. While you cannot see it in this shot, the road is totally destroyed as a result of being underwater for weeks.

Roads not flooded suffered serious damage due to sinkholes caused by water running underground. This one is about 6 feet deep and could swallow my car easily.

Pierre offered a number of beautiful parks on the river's edge. These structures in the middle of the water are part of a road and walkway next to the river. The structures are the roofs of gazebos that are about 8' tall on the sides with the floor (now under water) usually a couple feet above the water. That would make the current water about 8 to 10' above normal -- and if has already receded at least that much.

This road near downtown Pierre is protected by a barrier. There are miles of these dykes that were built in only a few days, which is amazing. Now, the clean up will begin.

One of the big problems that arose after the dykes were built were the storm drains that channeled rain water from the streets into the river. Naturally, when the river flooded, water backed up from the drains into the road! As a result, divers had to plug the river side of the pipes and pumps, such as this one, were installed to get rid of the seepage or any rainfall. What an effort!

This is the Ramkota Inn, a lovely conference hotel that Rick has been at many times. Fortunately, these sandbags saved the structure.

There has been little national coverage of this disaster, but it is really encouraging to see how South Dakota folks banded together to battle this flood. I am sure that in the near future this damage will be fully repaired and I look forward to visiting again to see the progress.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pierre SD Flooding from Lake Oahe

Lake Oahe is a huge lake resulting from one of the largest earthen dams in the world which backs up the Missouri River over 200 miles. Located just above Pierre, SD, the lake experienced terrific snow runoff last spring and as a result, filled to capacity -- and then some.

As a result, The Corps of Engineers had to release unprecedented amounts of water starting in May of 2011 and which caused terrible flooding of the Pierre area as well as further downstream. Rick wanted to check this area out in August after over 3 months of water releases.

This picture is directly below the dam at the powerhouse which generates huge amounts of water. The last time Rick was here, the water was several feet below its current level.

This looks downstream and you can see the trees are actually in the water. The trees are actually on a large levee which usually is several feet above the water. I would guess that the powerhouse river is at least three times as wide as it usually is.

This gives a better view of the powerhouse and you can just see a platform on the left side of the river that seems to be almost floating. This is actually a fishing pier and is usually about 8 to 10 feet above the water -- now it is literally at the water level.

The spillway is located at the other end of the 9,300' long dam with 5 outlets. This was truly impressive with vast volumes of water shooting out of the spillway gates and making large waves in the "stilling basin".

Wow! Prior to this spring, Oahe had released a maximum of about 55,000 cubic feet per minute of water. This spring, that reached a record 160,000 CFM. Now, this is being reduced, but is still at about 130,000 CFM. This was almost scary to stand next too as the roar was very loud and the ground literally shakes. You can get a good idea as to this in the video below.

Next post will focus on the damage done by the flooding and the remarkable preventative efforts that saved many structures.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The SPAM Museum - Austin, MN

While we were getting service done on the motorhome in Forest City, IA, we decided to drive about 60 miles north to Austin, MN to the home of Hormel Foods and the SPAM Museum. We had visited the museum right after it opened in 2002 and recalled it was a fun stop. The museum is free and there is plenty of parking, even for motorhomes, which is great, since it is right off of I-90.

Appropriately, Orinda was met by this statue of a farmer driving hogs to market as we entered.

SPAM is perhaps the best known of Hormel's many products and you have to wonder what in the world would be in such a museum!

The museum is actually very well done and lots of fun to stroll through. The 16,500 sq. ft. is full of interesting displays on the the company and the history of the country as well. The first stop is this internet lunch counter were you can check out web information on SPAM and get recipes.

George Hormel founded the company way back in 1891, so the firm is now 110 years old. Some of the interesting history that we learned was how technological advances impacted the meat packing business, including refrigerated railcars, canned meat, such as canned hams and SPAM, and advertising. The fact that Hormel was an innovator in each of these areas contributed greatly to their success.

We really enjoyed the advertising history. Hormel used radio and TV from the start to publicize its products. SPAM was one of the real success storied and during WWII, was heavily used to feed the troops and other allied countries. Interestingly, this stemmed from Jay Hormel's experiences in WWI when the food sent to the troops in the trenches was almost inedible.

Hormel has had a somewhat troubled labor past, not unlike many food processing firms that experience significant cost competition. Still, I am not sure Orinda is ready to join the processing floor crew, although she is dressed for the occasion!

SPAM continues to be very popular and sales have climbed during the recession. There are now many varieties of SPAM which is really just canned ham product. We got to taste different varieties and found it to be very good. We also learned that the most SPAM per person is consumed in Hawaii.

This was a fun picture showing the famous SPAM can. However, on closer inspection:

we found that the large picture is really made up of thousands of smaller photos of Hormel and SPAM employees and processes. Pretty cool!

The SPAM Museum is a fun stop for folks of all ages. You can also get those unique gifts such as the ever popular SPAM flip-flops, SPAM t-shirts, SPAM you name it!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Out to the End of Door County

Door County sticks out into Lake Michigan for about 70 miles and forms Green Bay (and looks like a thumb on the state of Wisconsin). We have been staying in Kewaunee, WI, which is right on the bottom of the peninsula and just south of Door County. We wanted to check out the northern part of Door County, so tooled north to see the sights. Right after we entered the county, we saw this beautiful field of sun flowers which put us in a good mood for our trip.

After traveling through Sturgeon Bay, which we had visited earlier, we stopped by this farm market to explore the offerings. They featured Door County cherries in the traditional tart, sweet and interestingly, a yellow variety. Rick really liked these (they were like a regular sweet cherry) ad we purchased a few (and some wonderful baked goods).

The Seaquist Market also offered the chance to see some restored tractors, such as this early '50s John Deere, which was in great shape. I suspect these folks have quite a bit of time to work on these during the frigid winter months.

The end of Door County is called, appropriately enough, "Land's End", which certainly makes sense when looking at it above. There is a ferry that will take you to the islands just north of Land's End, but this was far enough for us today. The small marina you can just see above is typical of the man-made marinas that provide some shelter from the big lake.
At Land's End, there was a number of boats, including this classic Lake Michigan commercial fishing boat. The enclosed cabin and rear steering area seemed typical of these steel-built craft of about 40' long.

In the same area, this fishing boat, of the same kind as the one in the water, was displayed to really give an idea of how the boat was designed. These are very utilitarian, seaworthy, and protect the crew from the cold and icy spray. Made us cold just to think about being out in one on a windy October day.

We traveled to Land's End up through the center of Door County and then took the road on the western side on the return. Close to Land's End, we came to Ephram, a beautiful small town right on the Bay.

Ephram had a number of attractions, including some beautiful flowers all around the town. These caught our eye, but, Wilson's Cafe provided a different attraction:

Lunch was served -- we split a great ice cream treat featuring real Wisconsin ice cream. Of course, Orinda was viewing this as a healthful dairy product and the fact that it tasted wonderful, had no influence on our decision to purchase. Really!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Two Rivers, WI and the Manitowoc Car show and Ferry

We decided to head a bit south toward the lakeshore town of Manitowoc, WI. On the way, we passed through the city of Two Rivers, WI which is right on the shore of Lake Michigan. Driving by, we saw these seagulls - by the thousands! This is only a small portion of the vast flock which covered the beach. Wow!

Two Rivers was also the home of this huge factory, which had clearly seen better days in the past. This is the home of Hamilton Mfg, which made printer's furnishings for newspapers, printers, etc. They specialized in special cabinets to hold type and print plates -- some of the cases might be 20' long! Apparently, the company is still producing some various products, but it is clearly a mere shadow of its former self. To think that an Ipad can now do all the type setting that used to require many highly trained workers and expensive, dedicated equipment.

Two Rivers is still involved in some commercial fishing, although it must be a small fraction of years ago. Still, it was fun to see these lake fishing boats still in action.

We arrived in Manitowoc and as luck would have it (Rick said Yeah, Orinda said Oh brother!) we drove right by a great car show! Naturally, Rick had to stop. Fortunately, Orinda did not seem to mind too much and enjoyed seeing some of the excellent cars on display, such as this vintage Corvette.

Rick was enthralled with the old cars, such as these Ford Model A's. Dating from the early 1930's, these were quite the car in their day.

How about this 1951 Buick Special! Featuring the straight 8 engine and side-tilt hood, this was state or the art 60 years ago. This car is made of REAL metal!

We were very surprised to see the number and quality of true classics at this show, including this 1936 Plymouth that Orinda liked. There was quite a bit of effort involved in the restoration of this one and it looked like it just rolled out of the showroom.

Here is a very unusual car -- a 1925 Nash Speedster. This car was apparently built right here in Wisconsin (Kenosha) and is spectacular. This is the first one of these we have ever seen -- can't be many of these running around.

Orinda thought this was more like it -- a 1930 Chrysler Dual Cowl Phaeton. This car is magnificent and looked new. Imagine driving around in this car in 1930 -- you sure would not blend in with the common cars of the era!

We thought we had seem some amazing, old cars -- but, as they say, Wait -- there is more! How about this one -- an original 1910 De Dion Bouton! And it runs! In fact right after I snapped this picture, the owner came over and with a quick spring of the front crank, fired it right up. The one cylinder engine chugged nicely, the same as it did over 100 years ago when it was made. Pretty cool!

Here is one that Rick could identify with -- in fact, Rick and this Chevy are the same age as both were "built" in 1952. I am not sure who is in better shape, but they both appear to be using only original equipment.

Rick also liked the VW bugs as he has restored a couple of these from the floor pan up. It is alot of fun to rebuild something like this and then actually drive it down the road.

Finally, as we were leaving Manitowoc, we saw the car ferry Badger getting ready to dock after a trip from Luddington, MI across the lake. The 410' Badger is the only coal fired ship still in commercial service in the US and has been providing ferry service for over 50 years. It was fun to watch the Captain ease the ship backwards to dock so the cars could be off loaded.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Door County Classic Boat show and Museum

Well, I just found some great photos on the SD card in the camera from Door County, so we will take a quick trip back there! These shots are from Door County Maritime Museum Classic Boat festival in Sturgeon Bay, WI. We saw a poster for this and of course, Rick had to go. Fortunately, this turned out to be a great event!

Not only were there a number of individually owned classic boats of all kinds, but there were also some full size museum displays -- such as this Chicago fireboat that was still in use. Built in 1937, the boat is very low to the water (under 15') so it could get under the bridges on the Chicago River.

Here is an interesting boat -- no car -- actually, it is both! This is the famous amphicar. Built in the early 1960's, these cars could drive on the road in normal fashion, then go down the boat ramp and into the water. There are twin propellers in the rear (stern?) that the driver (captain?) could engage to chug across the lake. Just make sure that you don't open the door!

The museum was excellent and Rick learned quite a bit about the area and the shipping traditions that are ingrained in Sturgeon Bay. There were a number of ship yards that were developed and boat building was a big business in the early 1900's. In fact, a number of WWII warships were built in the area and transited the Great Lakes to get to the Atlantic Ocean.

Rick was very interested in the large propulsion display! This early Diesel was fully restored and as you can see, is a BIG engine.

Of course, Rick's favorites had to be the classic outboard motors. He has a couple of these and enjoyed the restoration process of getting them running again.

Orinda was reminded that while the lakes provide great transportation during the summer, but in the winter (which is long in northern Wisconsin), ice is the norm! So, these large ice boats, dating from the 1930's are the vehicles of choice. These boats really go and heel well up on two runners at speed.

This was a great classic outboard and was totally original with the motor, boat and trailer that was initially sold in the mid 1950's. The rig looks like new and would look right at home behind a '57 Chevy.

Finally, we took a tour on the deck of a real tugboat. This boat was used for several decades and was actually converted from steam power to Diesel in the later 1940's. This was done by removing the upper deck (that Rick is standing on), pulling out the large boilers and engine, and installing several WWII surplus Diesel engines. That is quite a project, to say the least!