| DULUTH, Minn., June 21
DULUTH, Minn., June 21 Duluth officials on
Thursday estimated damage at up to $80 million just to the
city's public infrastructure from the flood that swamped the
northeast Minnesota city and nearby communities this week.
The flooding, which left huge sinkholes and ripped up dozens
of roads, also forced hundreds of people from their homes and
killed several zoo animals.
Mayor Don Ness said the flood was the worst in the history
of the Lake Superior port city, surpassing a 1972 flood both in
damage and rainfall, and he estimated the damage to public
infrastructure at $50 to $80 million dollars.
"It has overwhelmed our storm water system. It has damaged
our street system, our parks and trails have been decimated by
this storm," he said.
Ness met with Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton and state
officials in Duluth on Thursday to assess possible state and
federal aid for flood recovery.
"It's horrific," Dayton told reporters after a tour of
flood-damaged areas. "To see wipeouts of whole roads that I've
been traveling on for years and the vastness of the impact here
and the impact on some of the key industries, the paper mills
and the taconite production is really very concerning."
There were close calls, but no deaths have been reported
from the flooding caused by up to 10 inches of rain.
An 8-year-old boy playing in flood waters in Proctor,
Minnesota, near Duluth was swept several blocks through a
culvert, but was rescued and suffered only scrapes. Others,
including Susan Towle, escaped stranded cars.
"I drove into what looked like a little puddle that ended up
being a big puddle," said Towle. "Pretty soon the car stalled
and water came rushing up over the hood."
Towle said she waded through four feet of water, crossed two
lanes, and climbed a chain link fence, cutting both of her
hands, to reach a nearby hotel and call for a ride.
THE ROAD TO RECOVERY
Dozens of roads in Duluth and the surrounding area have
sustained damage or are impassable because of flood damage, some
with sinkholes up to 20 feet wide, Duluth public information
officer Pakou Ly said on Thursday.
Duluth and surrounding areas were gradually returning to
normal on Thursday, but Ly said some parts still had standing
water and a significant amount of sewage overflow could not be
controlled because of the massive rainfall.
The flooding had overwhelmed neighborhoods on Duluth's steep
hills and rocky cliffs, and swamped lower-lying areas when tiny
creeks swelled into rivers and then spilled over their banks.
Flooding from a swollen creek killed several animals at the
Lake Superior Zoo, and allowed a polar bear and two seals to
escape exhibits briefly. The St. Louis River broke a record peak
of 15.8 feet near Cloquet, Minnesota, set in 1950 and was
expected to stay above major flood stage into next week.
The general cargo dock at the Port of Duluth-Superior, which
was closed Wednesday due to concerns for worker safety, was open
Thursday, said Adele Yorde, public relations manager for the
Duluth Seaway Port Authority.
The Duluth-Superior port, which also has 20 privately owned
and operated docks, handles shipments of commodities such as
iron ore, grain and coal, heavy equipment and other materials.
State officials said Thursday about 200 residents from the
Fond du Lac neighborhood in Duluth and 40 from the Thomson,
Minnesota, area remained displaced.
Tina Morris, 38, said she had no friends or relatives she
could stay with after she was ferried by raft from her apartment
in Fond du Lac on Wednesday afternoon.
"When I was packing my backpack I thought, 'I have to be
ready for anything,'" Morris said. "I don't know where I'm
going. I don't know what's going to happen. I didn't see anybody
cry today until I got to the shelter. We had to evacuate our
homes. It's just bizarre."