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VIDEO: Floodwaters cause damages in Duluth and surrounding areas

DULUTH -- Floodwaters gorged by a 24-hour deluge of up to 10 inches crumbled roads and damaged homes and businesses in Duluth, Superior and surrounding areas on Wednesday and caused the drowning deaths of dozens of animals at the Lake Superior Zoo.

Duluth floodwaters
Car caught in floodwaters at First Street and Seventh Avenue East in Duluth early Wednesday, June 20, 2012. (Andrew Krueger / akrueger@duluthnews.com)

DULUTH -- Floodwaters gorged by a 24-hour deluge of up to 10 inches crumbled roads and damaged homes and businesses in Duluth, Superior and surrounding areas on Wednesday and caused the drowning deaths of dozens of animals at the Lake Superior Zoo.

Emergency crews rescued an 8-year-old boy who was swept five to six blocks through a culvert in Proctor, Minn., Wednesday afternoon. He had some cuts but was otherwise uninjured, St. Louis County Undersheriff Dave Phillips said.

Tom Crossmon, a captain with the St. Louis County Sheriff's Volunteer Rescue Squad, said the boy was amazingly lucky to have survived his five-to-six-block journey through the culvert. Crossmon was en route to the scene in Proctor with a remotely operated underwater search device when the boy popped out the other end of the culvert.

The rescue squad was called to check submerged vehicles and used its airboat to rescue several stranded motorists, according to Crossmon.



Half of Duluth's Fond du Lac neighborhood and the town of Thomson were evacuated as the St. Louis River rose from above-normal dam discharges upstream. The dams were reported to not be in danger of failure, but Minnesota Power is releasing more water that may flood homes downstream. First United Methodist Church in Duluth -- the "coppertop church" -- and the Scanlon Community Center are being used as evacuation centers.

Rescue squad members helped evacuate Fond du Lac neighborhood residents by boat throughout the day. Crossmon said the squad helped about 50 people to safety Wednesday.

Most residents in affected areas have heeded evacuation advisories but some remain, he said.

Thomson residents have been asked not to use tap water for drinking, cooking or bathing because it may be contaminated.

Heavy rainfall and flash floods in Duluth left some roads under water and caused flooding, sinkholes, open manholes and mudslides, including along parts of Skyline Parkway and in the Hillside. Parts of Interstate 35 in Duluth and in Carlton County were closed.

Many residents reported flooded basements.

Mayor Don Ness declared a state of emergency in the city of Duluth, citing "significant damage, debris and popped manholes."

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton said he will visit Duluth today to assess the flood damage.


"This morning my thoughts are with our friends and neighbors in Duluth and the surrounding region, as they respond to major flooding," Dayton said in a statement. "I have spoken to Duluth Mayor Don Ness and have offered all possible state assistance now and during the recovery."

No travel in county

The Carlton County Sheriff's Office recommended no travel in the county except in emergencies because of flooded roadways. The most-affected areas are across northern parts of the county; Highway 210 through Jay Cooke State Park is closed.

Among other developments:

• Duluth International Airport canceled four inbound flights Tuesday night because of the severe weather, which means four outbound flights didn't go out Wednesday morning, said Brian Ryks director of the airport.

The airport maintained its schedule on Wednesday.

"As far as water issues, we haven't had anything at the airport that's been concerning," Ryks said, of potential damage. "We're in pretty good shape."

• Duluth police were asking residents to stay home, traveling only in case of emergency. Calls to 911 should be for emergency purposes only, police stressed.


There have been reports of homes evacuated because of flooding in other parts of the city of Duluth, including in the Mount Royal area near the University of Minnesota Duluth.

East Ninth Street, where it crosses Chester Creek and turns into East Eight Street, was closed while the bridge there was inspected for damage, police said. Eighth Street was a river with water rushing down from the Chester Creek Cafe at 19th Avenue toward the bridge. Chester Parkway was closed as sides of the road gave way. In Chester Bowl, the picnic areas were flooded over picnic tables and trees were uprooted by landslides.

• The state Emergency Operations Center said it secured two pumps for St. Luke's hospital in Duluth.

• The Superior Police Department reported many streets with water flowing over them or washed out.

The Blatnik Bridge detour route on Belknap Street, U.S. Highway 2, was affected near Poplar Avenue. Other main arteries, including Tower Ave near 46th Street, 28th Street near Superior High School and Hill Avenue between North 21st Street and Belknap Street were affected by the huge amount of runoff.

• Serious flooding was reported up the North Shore, in Two Harbors and north toward Silver Bay. In Lake County, Internet and cellphone service was out until about mid-afternoon.

• The National Weather Service said the Flood River in Floodwood was over its banks and past flood stage and was starting to flood some homes there. The Weather Service also reported flooding in Grand Rapids, Nashwauk and Eveleth with many city roads covered in water.

• The Weather Service reported that the White Pine River overflowed its banks and flooded Minnesota Highway 33 north of Cloquet, forcing the road to be closed. There were reports of 2 to 3 feet of water over the roadway.


Authorities in Cloquet evacuated campers in Spafford Park along the banks of the rapidly rising St. Louis River, according to the Pine Journal.

• Both the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District and city of Duluth experienced sewage overflows due to the massive amount of rainwater infiltrating the sanitary sewage system. While the systems' new overflow tanks held during heavy rain in April and May, this record rainfall was simply too much, said Karen Anderson, WLSSD spokeswoman.

"We don't even know the extent of it yet because it's too dangerous to be out checking in some spots," Anderson said.

The city cautioned residents against playing in standing water, which might be contaminated by sewage.

"People need to be extremely careful in these kinds of dangerous conditions," said the Rescue Squad's Crossmon. "It reminds me of last August, when a 13-year-old boy drowned in Amity Creek. Actually, this is far worse than anything we've seen before," he said.

"We're still asking people to stay away from the water. People are getting in trouble when they venture out to look around," Crossmon said.

The Duluth News Tribune and the Herald are both owned by Forum Communications Co.


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