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Local View: Even in adversity, all roads still lead to Duluth

Last week's storm was an unprecedented and very trying event for all Duluthians. Most people, including our employees at ZMC Hotels and me, were personally affected and experienced some loss.

Todd Torvinen

Last week's storm was an unprecedented and very trying event for all Duluthians. Most people, including our employees at ZMC Hotels and me, were personally affected and experienced some loss.

Over the past few days I've seen our tough Minnesotan resiliency and a resolve to overcome. God tests us, and whatever adversity we experience only makes us stronger.

My thoughts go out to the Duluth zoo, our partners in the hospitality industry. They suffered property damage and animal losses. We sympathize especially with zoo employees who care for the animals. I know our hospitality community will rally around the Lake Superior Zoo and that it will be better than before.

Due to Mother Nature's power, our area experienced several severe but isolated road-infrastructure washouts and flooded public and private buildings. Repairs could cost hundreds of millions of dollars. I applaud our mayor and our state legislators' efforts to seek disaster designation and money to help pay for repairs.

We suffered hardship but can keep it in perspective when considering other disasters, including tornados that have leveled towns in Wisconsin or Missouri, destroying buildings and killing and injuring residents. To my knowledge, with God's help, no one was seriously injured in Duluth last week, and the city is 99 percent as it was before the storm.

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Duluth's appealing hillside topography also is its biggest asset. When Mother Nature likes to highlight her forces, it becomes very exciting and newsworthy and makes national news because of the devastating power and the quick damage that can be caused. Just as quickly (and this is unlike flatlands), when the sun comes out, rainwater in Duluth flows into Lake Superior, and then it's business as usual except for some cleanup. This is in contrast to other flooded cities the public may recall such as Moorhead, Minn., Memphis or New Orleans.

We in the hospitality industry understand Duluth's infrastructure just withstood a 500-year event on the heels of a 100-year event a month ago when 5.5 inches of rain fell. I've been told that nine to 10 inches of rain constitutes a 500-year event.

But except for the zoo and a small number of very visual but isolated washouts, there is no lasting damage to Duluth's tourism infrastructure. Downtown and Canal Park came through without any damage other than a few wet basements. Our attractions, from Spirit Mountain's Alpine Coaster and zip line to the North Shore Scenic Railroad, Great Lakes Aquarium, Vista boats and amenities like the Lakewalk, Rose Garden and our lovely parks, all made it through this storm and are ready to be experienced. The roads up the North Shore to Two Harbors, Gooseberry Falls and Split Rock are open.

We want our visitors to know that Duluth's vacation experience is still the best in the Midwest and as good as it ever was. The same roads still lead to Duluth. Now it's just a little greener here, the fire danger is lower and Lake Superior is up a few inches.

Todd Torvinen is president and chief financial officer of ZMC Hotels, a Duluth-based company that owns and operates 31 properties nationwide.

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