Special Report: Rochester residents remember flood of 1978 forty years later

ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) — The flood of 1978 hit Rochester hard, causing around 60-million-dollars of damage.  Flooded basements and first floors were only a fraction of what people experienced during this event.  David DeWitz is a current Rochester resident who remembers the flood.  He was working for Dave Alexander Builders when the flood hit.

“I was pretty young,” DeWitz recalls, “I was only 22 and I went to work the morning after all the rain.  There was no electricity so we didn’t have to work.  I got back home and I lived on 6th Street Northwest just east of 11th Avenue there.  And we had a lot of rain there.”

DeWitz remembers how strong the water was during the flood.

“Oh, yeah.  When we turned going north on 3rd Avenue and the waves about three blocks down were, I betcha six foot swells.  They would have gobbled up our little boat.”

He says whether there’s an emergency situation or in every day life, people should always remember to help each other.

“Well, wear life jackets when you go out to rescue people.  I guess we’ve all learned that,” DeWitz says, “That was 78, that was a long time ago.  And we didn’t have all that.  We didn’t have all the rules and regulations. You just gotta be safe and don’t be afraid to jump in.  I mean if somebody needs help, get in there.”

David DeWitz is only one of many who still remembers what the Rochester community went through during the flood of 1978.

After this event, a flood control system was put into place that currently protects Rochester.  The system includes a concrete channel here on the Zumbro River and and reservoirs on tributary systems on the outskirts of town.

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