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A boat floats near Hwy. 35 across from the Hudson sewer plant. Note the service station in the background. An office building is now on that site.
A boat floats near Hwy. 35 across from the Hudson sewer plant. Note the service station in the background. An office building is now on that site.

Doug's Diggings: New photos of '65 flood

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opinion River Falls, 54022
River Falls Wisconsin 2815 Prairie Drive / P.O. Box 25 54022

The Star-Observer ran a few historic photos this spring regarding the 1965 flood. The flood, of course, was the worst ever recorded in Hudson, cresting between 694 and 695 feet. What that means is that the river was 20 feet over its normal level of 675 feet.

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What do some of those numbers mean? To cover the Dike Road takes a water level of 691 feet. To reach the top of the Mallalieu Dam takes a water level of 688.3 feet. In 1965, that meant a backup into the Mallalieu of six feet. Not only were people sandbagging along the St. Croix, but also attempted to keep the water out of homes on the Mallalieu. That involved efforts on both sides of the Mallalieu (North Hudson and Hudson), including Prohl's Point in Hudson.

After running the flood photos, I got a call from Jim King of North Hudson. Jim said he had taken slides of the 1965 flood. At the time, the longtime resident was serving in the National Guard and was called upon to assist with the effort to hold back the flood waters.

As it turns out, Jim had shots of the flood that I have not seen before.

Of course, I remember the flood well. Being a high school junior I was involved in the sandbag efforts in the area, and also got a summer job out of the process. A government flood cleanup effort meant summer jobs for many teens in the day.

Of course, most of the actual flood cleanup was completed fairly quickly. Much of the rest of the summer was spent doing other work around town, like cleaning all the brush off the dike road, trimming trees and brush along both the St. Croix and Mallalieu, etc.

I don't remember a lot about the program, only that workers were divided into groups of 10. Each group had an adult supervisor. The bigwig, at least in the Hudson area, was a fellow named Stenberg (I think). Everybody got extremely busy any time a group saw his car pulling up to a site. In reality, most teens worked hard all summer. There wasn't much goofing around on our crew.

In 1965, there was more damage than there would be today. There were homes along First Street across from what is now the boat launch parking lot. The United Refrigerator plant was near the dike road where the band shell and park is now located. The United plant also sat much lower than the ground today. The plant was probably 6 or 8 feet below the Dike Road. Since the water went about three feet over the Dike Road in '65, it took a massive effort to save the facility.

Jim's photos provide another look at the record flood from 1965 -- 48 years ago.

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