BLUE EARTH - Lynn Anderson got a shock when she opened the Little Giants day care at 9 a.m. Feb. 1.
"I came in to open up for open gym," Anderson said. "I came in to water coming down the hallway. Approximately 4 inches; up to my shoelaces."
Anderson is the coordinator of Little Giants day care, located in the Ag Center on Highway 169. Anderson manages staff and small children, so she's used to dealing with surprises.
Aiden Lyon, 7 months, and Lynn Anderson check out the altered wall painting in the hallway by the Sweet Peas infant room at Little Giants day care center in Blue Earth.
"At first, I thought maybe somebody spilt the mop tub," she figured.
She was wrong.
"I opened the door to all the water running. I could hear water coming," Anderson said. "Then I knew I had to stop the water, shut off the main water valve. I had to wade through the water all the way back to the main utility room."
Anderson would later learn a water softener started leaking some time between when staff left at 6 p.m. Friday and she arrived Saturday morning.
"We're assuming it's when it regenerated in the night," she said.
Every room was flooded, except the toddler room and preschool room. Anderson is grateful the damage wasn't worse.
"If I wouldn't have had open gym on Saturday, it would have run until Monday," she said. "We don't want to think what it would've been."
Anderson's first task was to get the water cleaned up. She sent out an SOS text to parents and got 15 people to come to her rescue.
"My parent support was unbelievable," Anderson said. "I couldn't have done it myself."
Some came wearing rubber boots, and others rolled up their pants and waded barefoot through the water. They assessed what wouldn't be damaged by water and moved what they could to higher ground.
"They even ran the extractors to get the extra water up," Anderson said.
One of the parents is on the fire department, which loaned some squeegees that really helped move the water, Anderson said.
"The extra water we just put to the drains and got rid of the water as quick as we could," she said.
One parent allowed them to hang the soaked rugs in a heated shed.
"Can't lay it out in the sun," Anderson said, in a nod to the winter weather. "It'll freeze as hard as a rock."
Andeson said the custodial staff from Blue Earth Area pitched in too.
Everything was done except the airing out by 12:30 p.m. that afternoon.
"Then pretty much our fans had to do the work. It was just a matter of time for them to dry everything out. And they did," Anderson said.
The parents did such a good job, Little Giants opened on time that Monday.
The water may be gone, but the clean-up is on-going.
"Fortunately in early childhood, most of the stuff is plastic," Anderson joked. "That helped a lot.
"The floors are good. Carpets on the floors dried out," she said. "ServiceMaster said it was good to get the water off right away because the longer it sits, the worse it is.
"You couldn't see damage to the walls, but just for precaution (against mold), we had them cut them all," Anderson said. "Someone came in that tests stuff and said it would be best for everyone just to replace the bottom of the walls."
Every wall except the ones in the toddler and preschools rooms were cut, replastered and re-insulated from 2 feet high and down. Every door frame and cupboard had to be removed to fix the walls.
"Anything to make it safe," Anderson insisted. "Our children are down on the floor so much."
The little ones have enjoyed having the construction workers in their space.
"The construction workers have been wonderful to work with," Anderson said. "The children have been amazed, and and that's what they all want to grow up to be."
All the electronics were above the water line, Anderson said. Loss was limited to some shelving units and some equipment that sat in the water.
"Most of the rugs we saved, thanks to ServiceMaster," she said.
"The thing that makes me most sad is some of the paintings," Anderson said. "I had a professional painter paint on my walls. When they cut the walls, it ruined the paintings."
She's keeping the bigger picture in mind.
"Our main goal is to make sure we stayed open for our families and make sure we have a safe place," Anderson said, adding it would have inconvenienced many parents to find another place for their children.
"In times of disaster, you notice who your extra support is from," Anderson said. "I'm just very thankful for all my helpers."