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Minnesota man loses longtime house after floods from Rapidan Dam break

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David Hruska woke up Monday to the roar of the dam near his Minnesota house — a sound he had fallen asleep and woken up to thousands of times in his 44 years living there. But that day, the sound was pierced by his sister and brother-in-law knocking on his door, urging him to come see the destruction happening outside.

He ran outside to see that the roughly 600 feet of land between his home in Mankato and the Rapidan Dam was being torn away, taking an electrical substation and trees with it. Rising waters on the Blue Earth River had breached a portion of the dam, and floodwaters were dismantling parts of the surrounding land. His sister and brother-in-law had watched the chaos start from the family’s restaurant a few feet from Hruska’s house before waking him and his dad.

As his basement flooded, Hruska said he ran into his house to collect family photos, clothes and guns to bring to his sister’s house about two miles away, where his dad joined him. A side of the three-bedroom home soon hung over a cliff, just a few feet above the floodwaters. The next night, Hruska said, he was watching the news when he saw his house collapse over a cliff and wash away alongside building parts, tree branches and concrete.

The damage was part of flooding that hit the Midwest last weekend and early this week. While flooding had harmed the Rapidan Dam in the past, Hruska told The Washington Post that he never imagined his house would be impacted.

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

Hruska said he’s holding out hope that his family’s restaurant, which he said is about 15 feet from the edge of the cliff, won’t fall into the river, too. His parents took over the shop, called the Rapidan Dam Store, soon after they bought the house in 1972, he said, and it became known locally for its homemade pies.

Hruska said he and his older sister, Jenny Barnes, helped clean tables as kids while enjoying strawberry rhubarb pie their mom, Linda, had baked. At home, Hruska said he loved listening to the river water collide with the nearby cliff as the house’s windows vibrated. He often climbed down to the river to kayak and fish.

In the early 2000s, Hruska said he and Barnes took over the shop. Hruska grilled burgers, while Barnes baked about 60 pie flavors by hand. They made T-shirts that said “The Best Dam Store By A Dam Site!”

The smell of grilled burgers traveled across Mankato, about 65 miles southwest of downtown Minneapolis. But most people came to the shop for the pies, which Barnes named “Dam Pies.” Chocolate caramel pecan soon became a customer favorite, Hruska said.

Barnes eventually moved about two miles away with her husband, while Hruska stayed at his childhood home with his 84-year-old dad, Jim.

But when storms created flooding in Minnesota last weekend, Barnes and Hruska watched the river water rising from the shop. Hruska said he didn’t grasp the severity of the situation until early Monday, when he saw water running over the dam for the first time in his life. Barnes had been baking pies that morning in preparation for opening the store that day, Hruska said, but the shop hasn’t opened since Sunday due to the floods.

Hruska said he accepted his house would probably fall when a nearby substation was demolished. Hruska said neighbors helped him grab his belongings from his house and load them into trailers.

Hruska said his home insurance won’t cover the costs of the destruction. Although his neighbors launched a GoFundMe page to help him get a new place, he said he doesn’t know where else he and his dad would live.

But Hruska said he does know what he plans to do if his shop falls into the water: He and Barnes will reopen it elsewhere.

“That’s pretty much all we’ve got left,” he said.

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