Heavy rainfall caused flooding in Duluth, Minnesota, prompting Mayor Don Ness to declare a state of emergency early Wednesday morning. Over nine inches of rain fell in some areas in less than 24 hours. Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton visited Duluth last Thursday morning to survey the Duluth flood damage and massive destruction to the Duluth Zoo.
The flooding has caused most of Duluth MN to shut down, with authorities urging people to stay home unless it is absolutely necessary to go out. Local universities, including UMD and the College of St Scholastica, have been shut down, along with most of downtown and the mall. Canal Park, the city of Duluth’s most attractive tourism site, has remained open although nature’s fury in the city has caused numerous hotel cancellations. The floodwaters have wrecked roads, including shutting down sections of Interstate 35. With the water rushing down the steep hills, the flood easily picked up momentum and overwhelmed the city’s storm systems. Several cars have fallen into sinkholes, showing the danger of being outside in the flood.
Residents are mostly unharmed, although there have been a number of close calls. One frightening story of an 8-year old boy who fell into a culvert and was swept away by the water ended happily when he emerged half a mile away with only minor injuries. Several sections of the city have been evacuated, as residents make their way to safer ground. In other areas residents are taking the opportunity to go kayaking on the city streets and have fun with the water.
The residents of the Lake Superior Zoo were much less fortunate, with a donkey, goats, and several sheep drowning in the flood. The waters swept a seal out of the zoo and onto nearby Grand Ave where it was discovered. In addition, Berlin, a female 450 pound polar bear, escaped but was soon recaptured. Berlin’s journey ended before she got outside the zoo’s perimeter fence, a barrier that none of the zoo’s more dangerous occupants crossed.
Experts are forecasting that the floodwaters will crest Thursday through Saturday before receding. Then the process of rebuilding can begin.
In a city experienced at dealing with blizzards, the sudden flood has come as a great shock. It will take a lot of time and money for Duluth to return to normal.