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A family in southwest Minnesota is struggling to pick up the pieces after losing two homes in less than a year — one to a house fire and one to recent flooding.

Curtis and Karla Ray said their first house, in Slayton, burned down in November and was recently demolished. They moved to a house in Windom, which flooded in June's historic floods and will need to be torn down.

The family is now living in a third house, which also flooded.

"We've had a little bit of a rough stretch," Curtis Ray said Tuesday.

The family is one of thousands of Minnesotans hit hard by historic rains in June, which caused flood damage in 47 counties.

At the time of the floods in late June, the Ray family was in Windom, where heavy rains caused the Des Moines River and Perkins Creek to overflow.

They were in Windom because their home in Slayton, some 30 miles west, burned down seven months ago. The fire on the afternoon of Nov. 11 destroyed the entire property and almost of all their possessions, Curtis and Karla Ray said Tuesday.

A family in southwest Minnesota lost their home in Slayton to a fire on Nov. 11, 2023, and then moved to a house in Windom, which flooded in mid-June.
A family in southwest Minnesota lost their home in Slayton to a fire on Nov. 11, 2023, and then moved to a house in Windom, which flooded in mid-June.

Karla Ray

After the fire, the family moved into a house in Windom that Curtis Ray had inherited after his father's death.

Curtis, who hauls livestock, and Karla, who works as a county assessor, have three children and six dogs.

They were staying at their home on Cottonwood Lake in Windom when the floodwaters began rising in mid-June.

"The water came up all at once, it went into the patio, into the house," Curtis Ray said. "Within eight hours, we had standing water, we were on an island."

The flood destroyed mementos the family had saved from the fire, the couple said.

Karla Ray recalled the moment she walked into the garage and saw water soaking and overturning their boxes of memories — her oldest child's soccer and wrestling pictures, her middle child's third-grade graduation certificate, Mother's Day cards to her over the years.

"I knew the few things that we had saved were going to be destroyed," Karla Ray said. "It makes you sick."

A family in Windom, Minn., lost mementos saved from a house fire last November to flooding at their new home in June 2024.
A family in Windom, Minn., lost mementos saved from a house fire last November to flooding at their new home in June 2024.

Karla Ray

The house in Windom is now uninhabitable due to mold and damage to the structure, Curtis Ray said.

The family is now living in another house in Slayton, which they bought in March. That house also flooded, and Curtis Ray said he believes he must "totally gut the basement there," though the house is still livable.

The Ray family said they are grateful to the volunteers who came to their aid during the flood. About 1,000 people in Windom helped with sandbagging, cleanup and giving out supplies, said Hilary Mathis, who assisted with coordinating volunteer efforts.

"The need for aid is far from over," said Mathis, who helped sandbag at the Ray home. "There are many families that will need community aid after the water is gone."

The Rays said they struggled to make sense of the misfortunes their family has gone through in the past year.

Curtis Ray said he had time to reflect on losing his home when their house burned down in November, but to have it happen again is "trying," and makes him wonder what comes next.

He likened, humorously, the past seven months to the biblical plagues.

"We've got fires and floods, and now the mosquitos are coming in," he said.