Our view: Duluth: Still open, but in need of assistanceA little confusion was understandable, given the frantic warnings, the declarations of disaster and the national media attention during Duluth’s record-setting, roads-destroying rain event Tuesday night and Wednesday. But the call Thursday still took staff at the downtown Holiday Inn and Suites by surprise.
A little confusion was understandable, given the frantic warnings, the declarations of disaster and the national media attention during Duluth’s record-setting, roads-destroying rain event Tuesday night and Wednesday. But the call Thursday still took staff at the downtown Holiday Inn and Suites by surprise.
“We heard Canal Park slipped into Lake Superior,” said a caller, one of many who telephoned Holiday Inn, other hotels and elsewhere in Duluth to see about still coming here, to see about still visiting. Can we get there? Are the roads open? Is it safe?
“We assured them, ‘No, Canal Park has not gone anywhere,’ and, ‘Everything is fine,’ ” Mark Emmel, president and chief operating officer of Lion Hotel Group, which owns the Duluth Holiday Inn and Suites, told the News Tribune Opinion page yesterday. “The sun is out and things are starting to dry up. While there was infrastructure damage that’ll need to be repaired, people can still enjoy Duluth and can still get around Duluth. That’s what we’re trying to tell people.”
The message was one of two trumpeting from Duluth in the wake of the most-destructive storm in city history.
While tourism-industry leaders and others shouted to anyone who’d listen that, yes, Duluth is open for business, Mayor Don Ness, Sen. Roger Reinert and others made another thing clear to the parade of state and federal dignitaries who started arriving in town on Thursday to see the damage for themselves: Our city is going to require some aid, some state and federal financial assistance, in order to rebuild and in order to bounce back; so please help.
How much assistance? The preliminary price tag is as stunning as the flood photos that filled Facebook this week. It’s already well beyond $100 million, as the News Tribune reported at duluthnewstribune.com on Thursday and in its print editions this morning.
“And that doesn’t include private property,” Ness said while touring the damage with Gov. Mark Dayton on Thursday. The already numbing number could easily double, or could go even higher than that, once all the public and private losses are tallied.
Dayton promised any assistance the state could offer and pledged to apply for the region to be declared an official federal disaster to make more money available. And U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack and U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, all of whom are scheduled to tour the flood damage today, already have talked with the Federal Emergency Management Administration, or FEMA, about federal assistance.
Duluth and the Northland need all the help we can get from state and federal agencies and from all our elected state and federal leaders.
And the region stands to benefit if all of us help to get the message out that Duluth remains open for tourism. Ness and Reinert were among those who posted the reminder on Facebook Thursday, allowing the important message to be reposted and repeated countless times.
“Because yesterday’s storm was a rare and unique event it seemed to cause a lot of buzz. I would hope the media could now share the rainbow side of the story,” Karen Pionk, general manager of the Sheraton Duluth Hotel, told the News Tribune Opinion page Thursday. “Yes, we have wet basements and buildings throughout our community, and we have broken roads. But visitors should know we have not stopped moving, not for a second. Visitors shouldn’t stop moving either; we are open.
“Last night I spoke to a guest who arrived from the Twin Cities,” Pionk continued. “I asked if he had to detour a lot and (whether) his trip (was) longer than expected. He told me he added about 10 minutes to his drive and only had one detour. From guests arriving (Thursday) we are hearing, ‘I thought I would see more damage or signs of the flood. I can’t believe there isn’t more, from what I was hearing on the radio (and) TV.’ ”
“We just want guests to know the city is safe and open to enjoy,” added Gerry Goldfarb, general manager of the Holiday Inn and Suites. “We’ve had many guests call confused by media reports about I-35 and other roads closed. So the perception has been that you can’t get to Duluth. We just want to get the word out that that isn’t the case. … We are looking at a beautiful weekend up here in Duluth and hopefully travelers know that Duluth is open for guests.”
At the same time, we’re also open to state and federal assistance so we can make repairs that suddenly can’t wait, so we can make all of Duluth completely safe again, and so we can erase all doubt in visitors’ and others’ minds.
Our demise is being greatly exaggerated. Let’s do something about it.