8-year-old boy survives being swept six blocks through Proctor culvertUPDATE: St. Louis County Undersheriff Dave Phillips pleaded with the public to stay at home and not try to drive anywhere, noting dozens of roads are closed, bridges washed out and pavement buckled.
By: John Myers and Andrew Krueger, Duluth News Tribune
Emergency crews rescued an 8-year-old boy this afternoon who was swept five to six blocks through into a culvert in Proctor. He had some cuts but was otherwise uninjured, St. Louis County Undersheriff Dave Phillips said.
Flooding has caused massive damage in Duluth and surrounding areas, with roads crumbling, homes and businesses flooded, and zoo animals drowned.
St. Louis County Undersheriff Dave Phillips pleaded with the public at 1 p.m. to stay at home and not try to drive anywhere, noting dozens of roads are closed, bridges washed out and pavement buckled.
“Please, please don’t try to go out. Do not drive around barricades. Don’t drive through standing water. And don’t let children play near the water,’’ Phillips said. “We have cases where water is rising so fast people can’t get out of the way.”
Phillips also asked people to limit cell phone calls so the system can remain open for emergency calls.
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 on Thursday 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.”
Flash-flood warnings in the Duluth and North Shore areas have been extended until 10:30 p.m., the National Weather Service in Duluth said.
Another inch or more of rain is possible today.
On his Facebook page, Ness advised residents who live in a low area near the river to seek higher ground. He noted that crews are out in force and will be aided by people staying off the roads.
“We have a coordinated response with city, county, State Patrol, Coast Guard, Red Cross, and the feds ready to help,” Ness wrote. “I've been very impressed with the coordinated effort to this point. Thank you to the leaders from across the state offering their help and support. There is another band of rain on our way, so it is likely to get worse before it gets better.”
Evacuations are under way in the Fond du Lac neighborhood of Duluth and Thomson Township in Carlton County. Thomson residents have been asked not to use tap water for drinking, cooking or bathing because it may be contaminated.
Officials at the Lake Superior Zoo were assessing damage and counting their losses after animals drowned and some escaped in the flooding. Duluth fire and police crews helped zoo staff track down animals.
All animals are now accounted for.
At one point, the zoo’s polar bear, Berlin, was able to escape its exhibit. The female bear was darted by the zoo’s veterinarian and is safe in quarantine, said zoo spokeswoman Keely Johnson. None of the zoo’s dangerous animals got outside the perimeter fence, she said.
The Polar Shores exhibit, which housed the seals and Berlin, has been completely flooded out, Johnson said. At one point the seal swam out of its exhibit and was found on Grand Avenue.
Johnson said many of the zoo’s animals have drowned, including all but one of the zoo’s barnyard animals. She said the zoo’s donkey, goats and sheep have died. She said it’s possible others have drowned, as flooding on the grounds have consumed some of the exhibits, such as the raven and vulture cages.
“Obviously, our entire staff is devastated,” said Peter Pruett, the zoo’s director of animal management.
Johnson said a culvert for Kingsbury Creek was backed up and caused the flooding, but that culvert is now completely washed out.
“The water is starting to recede a little bit,” Johnson said.
Dan Miller, science and operations manager for the National Weather Service in Duluth, said it may well be the largest rainstorm in Duluth’s history, dating back to the 1870s. Tuesday’s 4.2 inches was second only to 5.2 inches on July 21, 1909, during one calendar day. But the two day total of 7.25 inches of rain may indeed be a record for a single storm.
“This is right at the top for rainfall and flooding events in the history of the city of Duluth, no question,’’ Miller said. “We’re looking to see how it compares. But in terms of infrastructure damage and impact on people, this is right there with 1972 if not more, at least from what we know of it.”
“It’s not going to get any better any time soon,” Dean Melde, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said shortly after 10 a.m. “In Duluth, we could easily see another 2 inches, and there’s a line of strong to severe storms forming to our west that could bring more.”
Melde said the recent downpour resulted from high levels of moisture in the atmosphere combined with strong lift from a low pressure system that has slowed the system to a crawl.
Although moisture levels are typically much drier during the winter, Melde said an inch of rain usually equates to between 10 and 12 inches of snow. So the current system could have dropped 60 and 70 inches of snow on Duluth.
Half of Duluth's Fond du Lac neighborhood is being evacuated — though it’s not mandatory — as the St. Louis River rises from above-normal dam discharges upstream. The dams are 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” — is being used as an evacuation center.
Three Red Cross Emergency Response Vehicles are en route to Duluth to prepare for mass feeding if necessary.
The Carlton County Sheriff's Office is recommending 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.
The Sheriff's Office is recommending that some residents of Thomson Township evacuate because of high water. Carlton High School has been opened up as an emergency shelter.
Internet and cell-phone service is out in Two Harbors and elsewhere in Lake County. Minnesota Highway 61 north of Duluth is detoured at Homestead Road into Two Harbors. The detour road is deteriorating, however, with continuing rain.
Lake Country Power said 300 of its members are without power, most of those in the Kettle River area.
“This appears to be a flood reminiscent of the flood of 1972,” which devastated parts of the Duluth Hillside, the Weather Service reported. And with more storms lined up to the west, the situation may get worse yet this morning.
Among other developments:
The airport is expecting an 11 a.m. flight to arrive, and hopes to maintain its schedule throughout the day.
“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.”
Heavy rainfall and flash floods have left some roads under water and have caused flooding, sinkholes, open manholes and mudslides, including along parts of Skyline Parkway.
There have been reports of homes evacuated because of flooding in other parts of the city of Duluth - including in the Mount Royal area.
The Duluth Police Department, Duluth Fire Department and city of Duluth staff are coordinating with local emergency crews.
The Blatnik Bridge detour route on Belknap Street, U.S. Highway 2, is 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 are affected by the huge amount of runoff.
The Superior Public Works Department is working to put barricades in place to direct traffic away from or around affected areas.
Authorities in Cloquet are evacuating campers in Spafford Park along the banks of the rapidly rising St. Louis River, according to the Pine Journal.
“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 cautions residents against playing in standing water, which might be contaminated by sewage.
li>Morgan Park is blocked off as of 8 a.m. Wednesday.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation and the St. Louis County Public Works Department report these closings:
Midway Road has been closed between Trunk Highway 2 and Interstate 35. The Midway River is overtopping the road.
Highway 53 near Miller Hill Mall
Highway 33 in Cloquet
Highway 33 at milepost 9 near Independence
Interstate 35 in Duluth, from Central Avenue to Fifth Avenue East and between Carlton and Mahtowa
Highway 2 from I-35 to Boundary Avenue (downbound only) in Proctor
Highway 2 from the Iron Horse Bar and Grill to the golf course
Highway 23 south of Duluth
Highway 23 in Fond du Lac
Highway 210 completely closed through Jay Cooke State Park
Highway 61 near Silver Cliff Tunnel
Highway 61 at Knife River
Highway 200 between Hwy 2 and Hwy 65
Highway 73 closed at four locations --- reference posts 31.5, 46.3, and 47.4
Highway 65 from reference posts 107 to 112.6, closed under two feet of water
Highway 2 between reference posts 220.7 through 232.0 completely closed
The Blatnik and Bong bridges remain open.
Numerous road shoulders are also washed out due to flooding. Travel is not advised due to flooding until conditions improve and MnDOT crews can make progress to recover roadways.
Motorists should plan accordingly. When a road is closed, it is illegal to travel in that area. Motorists can be fined up to $1,000 and/or 90 days in jail. In addition, if travelers need to be rescued from a closed road, other expenses and penalties will apply. For updated information, call 511 or visit www.511mn.org.
News Tribune staff writers Brandon Stahl, Peter Passi and Jana Hollingsworth contributed to this report.