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2012-06-20 at 14:00

Under water: Flash flood rocks Duluth

By Leith Dunick,
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Thunder Bay’s sister city of Duluth is under a state of emergency after heavy rainfall deluged the Minnesota community overnight.

Police have advised motorists to stay off the roadways except for emergencies because of damage done by the rain and flash flooding, leaving many routes under water, vulnerable to sinkholes or dotted with open manhole covers.

Portions of Interstate-35 south to Minneapolis are impassable.

Though no humans have been reported injured in the storm, which dropped up to nine inches of rain on the port city, the Lake Superior Zoo did suffer losses. Up to 11 animals, mostly from their barnyard exhibit, including a beloved donkey, were killed. A seal and polar bear also escaped captivity because of rising waters.

The polar bear was darted by the zoo veterinarian and is in quarantine, while the seal was spotted by a passing motorist on Grand Avenue and returned to captivity by emergency crews.

Officials say because of the flooding, the worst to hit the city in 40 years, people should stay inside and out of harm's way.

“The Duluth Police Department is asking citizens to remain at home and any travel needs to be for emergencies only,” police state in a release issued early Wednesday morning.

“Also, any calls to 911 should be for emergency purposes only.”

Minnesota governor Mark Dayton is scheduled to visit the city on Thursday to assess the damage.

On his Facebook page, Duluth Mayor Don Ness implored people living in low-lying areas to seek higher ground.

“We have a co-ordinated response with city, county, State Patrol, Coast Guard, Red Cross and the feds (are) ready to help,” Ness writes. “I’ve been very impressed with the co-ordinated efforts to this point. Thank you to the leaders from across the state offering their help and support. There is another band of rain on (its) way, so it is likely to get worse before it gets better.”

Officials with the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District said prolonged rains have caused an overflow of the sewer system.

"We are presently assessing the extent of overflows in our system," said Marianne Bohren, WLSSD executive director, in a release. "No information is currently available regarding the overflow locations and volumes of overflows.  This is a dangerous and significant storm, causing major flooding and preventing us from gathering details." 

Residents are being cautioned to avoid contact with sewer overflow because of the danger of exposure to disease-causing organisms.

Duluth city hall has been closed for the day, with non-essential staff being told to remain at home.

The following road closures have been reported: 

London Road at 43rd Street
I 35 between Carlton and Mahtowa
I 35 from Central Ave to 26th Ave East/London Road
Hwy 2 from I 35 to Boundary Ave (downbound only) in Proctor, right 2 lanes are closed
Hwy 2 from the Iron Horse Bar and Grill to the golf course
Hwy 23 South of Duluth
Hwy 23 in Fond du Lac
Hwy 33 in Cloquet
Hwy 33 at milepost 9 near Independence
Hwy 53 near Miller Hill Mall in Duluth
Hwy 61 near Silver Creek Tunnel
Hwy 61 at Knife River
Hwy 200 between Hwy 2 and Hwy 65
Hwy 210 completely closed through Jay Cooke State Park
Hwy 73 closed at four locations – reference posts 31.5, 46.3, 47.4, and 27.4 (southbound lane)
Hwy 65 from reference posts 107 to 112.6, closed under two feet of water
Hwy 2 between 220.7 through 232.0 completely closed
Hwy 200 between Hwy 2 and 65

The following streets in the West side of Duluth are closed:
Superior St at 34th Ave West to 40th Ave West
Chambersburg Street to Piedmont Ave
Skyline Drive west of Spirit Mountain
Skyline Drive from 40th Ave West to Highland Street
Skyline Drive at 40th Ave West to 26th Ave West
Cody Street
38th Ave West and West 5th Street, bridge washed out
Most gravel roads are impassable

East side of Duluth:
Superior Street at 8th Ave E
Pleasant View
Airpark Drive
Skyline Drive – Kent Rd to Chester Park Drive
8th Ave East
1st Ave East
Kenwood Ave to Skyline Parkway
South and middle roads off Howard Gnesen
9th Street bridge
St. Marie St. closed
West Arrowhead Rd off of Woodland Ave
13th Ave East off of 9th Street
Dodge Street

Donations are being accepted through the Red Cross Northland by visiting or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767). Contributions may also be sent to the local Northland Chapter of the American Red Cross chapter at 2524 Maple Grove Road, Duluth, MN  55811 or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

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yu8 says:
$UE $UE $UE! ......
6/20/2012 2:40:22 PM
woodzee says:
Thunder Bay needs to have a sewage treatment plant that can handle a flood like Duluth.
6/20/2012 6:59:30 PM
Pandora says:
look how efficient and organized this information flows...
6/20/2012 3:14:08 PM
Me n My Opinion says:
Do you mean as compared to Thunder Bay? If so, the closed roads were made public extremely quickly here too.

I'm sure there will be Duluth residents who will be complaining about their governments actions soon enough.
6/20/2012 3:24:21 PM
tbayguy009 says:
I very sincerely beg to differ with your comment.

They were not fast or clear.

I sent many text messages back and forth (as a passenger in a car), figuring out a route around the washouts. There was no clear detour routing known to the public because the public was not able to gather the necessary information. Even the radio stations didn't give locations.

Wow. Did you sleep through it all?

I don't even care to complain. It is the 'norm' for this place on the planet.

But, please, 'they' don't really need a pat here for doing nothing of use to the public, when they really needed the information.

At the time I even mentioned that a google map with the locations on it would be useful. But someone complained about my complaint.

This is TBay
6/21/2012 11:04:46 AM
Me n My Opinion says:
Judging by the above list of closed roads in Duluth, I don't see any detours or suggested alternatives either - simply a list of closed roads. Couldn't find any detours on their website either.

Excerpts straight from the Duluth City website:

"Proctor - TH 2 closed in downtown Proctor - short detour inplace"
"TH 23 closed south of Duluth - exact location unknown"
"TH 53 - Mall area - water over road in two locations - road is open for now"

I'm not sure how that's so much better than what happened here.

In both cases, a million things are happening at once and a few people have to make decisions on all of them. They're not always going to be right - here or in Duluth. But I disagree that the reaction was any worse here than it is in Duluth now. I do believe that in both places, the majority of decisions were done as well as could be expected, and overall were good.

And I hate the "This is Thunder Bay" comment.
6/21/2012 11:50:52 AM
tbayguy009 says:
Well this IS Thunder Bay.

The whole point is the lack of response OR understanding towards the public.

Case in point. Don't ask the authorities for information, ask your neighbours.

Don't ask the police for detour directions, ask the guy in the nearest store.

Facebook propably has more information about detouring than anywhere else. Just like texting was the way for us to figure out a driving route around ourselves. It was there, just not apparently known by the 'authorities'.

Just the facts Jack. The real problem is people need to cordinate themselves far too often. Ummm. Sewage treatment plant failure?

Duluth has a serious situation and they will 'put out the forest fire with dynamite if need be'. TBay would use a garden house.

National guard call up. Watch for it.
6/21/2012 1:31:38 PM
TBDR says:
Look at the funding and support they get from the State. Notice that the damage is even worse? Apples to oranges.
6/20/2012 3:37:16 PM
eddylives says:
Seems the changes in weather patterns is becoming worse.
I hope they can clean up the mess and return to a normal life quickly.
6/20/2012 3:25:09 PM
CLETE says:
I hope this doesn't affect the shopping for Thunder Bay citizens. I cann't wait any longer for the deals.
6/20/2012 3:55:04 PM
brandnewlow says:
Duluth's flood is by far worse than what we got.
6/20/2012 3:55:59 PM
ringettemom says:
Awesome response by the city of Duluth!
Our city could take a few pointers. JUUUUUST SAYING ;)
6/20/2012 4:10:20 PM
edhtbon says:
And what exactly is so different between the response of the city of Duluth and the City of Thunder Bay? Road closure info provided... that happened in T-Bay. Stay out of sewage... that happened in T-Bay. Stay off flooded roads please... that happened in T-Bay. Do we see a pattern emerging yet?

The only difference here is higher levels of government are responding quicker in Minnesota than in Ontario.

6/20/2012 6:32:52 PM
ringettemom says:
Did the city list road closures on its website, or did you hear it on the radio (likely CBC first)? What other updates did the city make in its website hours after the event started?
The city certainly did NOT give sewage danger warnings because they didn't even acknowledge that aspect of the flooding at first until they were forced to publicly do so.
There were no co-ordinated announcements, info on who was helping and how, and it took days for any kind of help to pop up (again, I know this because I helped. The efforts sprang up from neighbours helping neighbours and grew from there).
SO, edhtbon, I realise you're really into defending the city, but you're simply wrong.
I have friends in Duluth and am feeling dreadful for what they are going through. Applauding their emergency co-ordination and keeping people informed, even saying "we don't know everything yet but we'll find out and let you know" is better than saying nothing and doing nothing. Thinking of them now.
6/20/2012 7:48:10 PM
edhtbon says:
The city began reporting what they knew immediately. It was coming over CBC radio at 7:30 am CST when I was on shift. The city knew very little about problems in houses off the get go because they can't just walk into your home and have a look around.

The city was also lacking critical information that Duluth was provided. Most notably, Environment Canada did not properly forecast rain fail amounts or give any indication of the potential in this storm. The NWS in Duluth issued flash flood watches and warnings as the event unfolded, allowing authorities there to better mobilize resources. I must point out a flood warning was not issued in T-Bay until well after the rains stopped. Tell me, how the city is supposed to respond immediately when they were given no good advanced information?

And I am disappointed you claim city employees did nothing. Pretty well all involved put in long days of hard work, and still are right now, to recover from this.
6/21/2012 7:29:29 AM
edhtbon says:
Yes, watches meaning there was the possibility of flooding. What was the city supposed to do at that point? Why didn't you start sand bagging? Because a watch means there is potential, not an actual flood in the imminent future. Notice your flood watch article also predicts less than half the actual rainfall? Hmm... the info isn't so good after all is it? The flood warning wasn't issued until the morning after the storm and both were issued by the LRCA, not the MNR.
6/21/2012 6:53:58 PM
ringettemom says:
Sir, nowhere did I say city EMPLOYEES did nothing. The refuse collection guys were *UNBELIEVABLE* and awesome. When I say city I am referring to our city council, Mr. Matson, Mr. Commisso and even Paul Pugh, the absent alderman for the McKellar ward.
Not sure what media you watch and listen to, but there were flood warnings that Sunday before the major thunderstorms. You must point out erroneous facts?
6/21/2012 2:30:08 PM
edhtbon says:
And who directed the refuse collection guys to take action? The flood warning came out at 8:40 am on May 28, after the torrential rains had already ceased. Please don't tell me I am pointing out erroneous facts when you continue to dwell on the idea that people did nothing, meanwhile you were not at city hall and you were not with those people during the course of this flooding event. I can say I agree that I have heard nothing from Mr. Pugh, but I will not go as far as saying he has done nothing because I have nothing to back that notion up.
6/21/2012 7:03:29 PM
edhtbon says:
In addition, I would like to thank you for your services to flood victims following the flood. It was the most heart warming part of the whole ordeal. But, just because you helped out, it does not make you an expert in Emergency Mgmt or what decisions were made by the city. There is a lot of information that has to be gathered by the city after such an event occurs, which takes time and effort. It is often hard to gather that info because people are preoccupied limiting damage to at risk structures, belongings, properties etc.
6/21/2012 7:32:44 AM
theonlyopinionthatmatters says:
Are you paying attention COTB / Hobbs....
this is how you do it.
6/20/2012 5:21:23 PM
tsb says:
Uh... they're doing everything pretty much the same way and at the same time as we did three weeks ago... Grass is greener on the other side of the fence, though, isn't it?
6/20/2012 6:01:01 PM
edhtbon says:
And this is how they did do it... at least this well.
6/20/2012 6:35:48 PM
young&concerned says:
I hope everyone brought their valuables to higher ground.

6/20/2012 5:29:49 PM
Arch Stanton says:
Right, that's it...

I'm starting on MY ARK!
6/20/2012 5:52:23 PM
Tom Sanderson says:
I feel for the people affected by the deluge of rain our neighbours to the South are experiencing today.
It amazes me how quick the only thing some local people think of is compensation when a natural event Yu8 thinks. Are you that dumb that you think people should be compensated because the clouds opened up and dumped a load of rain on a region? Like I've said before..if stupidity was painful some people would never stop crying.
6/20/2012 6:30:03 PM
6913 says:
"Niburu is still coming and will be turning around on July 21 2012 creating a magnetic pull on earth!" What will happen next?
6/20/2012 7:00:02 PM
yqt says:
People can clean up and rebuild.
The real tragedy is the death of a number of animals at the zoo. So sad.
6/20/2012 7:42:48 PM
wow! says:
They got a flood (nature), we got a sewer back up (mechanical break down!)
6/20/2012 11:45:47 PM
Tom Sanderson says:
We had a flood that was beyond the capacity of the system which created a mechanical break down. If there wasn't a flood situation, there would have been no problem with the sewage treatment plant.
6/21/2012 8:45:20 AM
unionbay880 says:
Wow the whiners are out in full force today. How exactly did Duluth handle the flood better? Did they stop it from happening? No. Did they save the homes from damage? No. Did they save all the animals in the zoo? No. Did their sewer (drainage) system become overwhelmed by a large amount of rain? Yes. Sure their sewage system didn't back up (maybe) but do you think all that water going into peoples basements was perfectly clean?
6/21/2012 5:41:01 AM
Mazda323 says:
Officials with the Western Lake Superior Sanitary District said prolonged rains have caused an overflow of the sewer system.

"We are presently assessing the extent of overflows in our system," said Marianne Bohren, WLSSD executive director, in a release. "No information is currently available regarding the overflow locations and volumes of overflows. This is a dangerous and significant storm, causing major flooding and preventing us from gathering details."

Perhaps wow! you should read the entire story...they have sewer back up too. This has been as devastating for them (even more so from the pictures) than it was for us. Your comment is way off base.

Daddy always said...Better to keep your mouth closed and be thought an idiot than to open it and remove all doubt.
6/21/2012 8:05:33 AM
passlake says:
Before anyone decides to comment on the fact that there's no reports of their sewage system backing up, do your reading first:

The difference is that "Sanitary sewers carry dirty water from homes and businesses. They are completely separate from the region's storm sewer system" -
6/21/2012 8:17:24 AM
Reignmaker says:
We are gonna need a bigger sewage plant given the increase of the stuff coming out of this site's posts.
6/21/2012 9:33:23 AM
DougMyers says:
Some pictures of Duluth

6/21/2012 9:39:58 AM
bonnieg95 says:
The sad thing is little was reported in Duluth on our flooding. I have friends there that heard nothing about our floods. Here the Duluth floods are the lead story
6/21/2012 1:20:04 PM
Tree says:
I feel for the animals, for the people, not so much!!
6/21/2012 5:18:35 PM
tree says:
Thunder bay is horrible!!
6/21/2012 7:40:53 PM
Urban Guy says:
I know some of the workers at the thunder Bay sewage plant. I have hardly seen any of them in the last 3 weeks. When I have they all looked wornout , dog weary tired. Some have not taken a single day off, most others have only taken a few only. First couple of days they were in sewage, bacteria filled water, waist deep sometimes, working till they had to be told to go home and sleep. Trying desperately to get the place pumped out so they could do start repairs. No lights except flashlights and headlamps on their hardhats in cold, pitch black, water filled tunnels. You don't see much of that in the news. Some have gone home sick but right back to work when they felt better. These guys are a bit crazy I think , but I wouldn't, couldnt think of anyone else I'd rather have down there. They all upset with all the rumours, half stories, armchair engineers and Watkins and his cronies too. You have facts, back em up, if not shut up!!!
6/21/2012 11:14:35 PM
GreetingsFromaCheesehead says:
Actually Bonnie the TB floods were covered on Duluth-Superior TV. I live near Milwaukee and learned about it there, (then followed it on TBT.)
Sad coincidence both cities hit in one month's time.
6/22/2012 12:41:30 AM
countryboy123 says:
Perhaps Woodzee and Wow! should have read the whole article before commenting. Officials said that the rainfall caused an overflow of their sewer system as well.
6/24/2012 11:08:49 AM
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