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Duluth News Tribune: Floodwaters test our community spirit

Now, more than ever before, the city needs to pull together for the long road to recovery.

Summer arrived in the Duluth area and with – school-closing announcements? Yep, and then things got really dicey.

An unprecedented deluge of rain overnight and through the morning Wednesday blew away sewer covers, turned city streets into raging rivers, left mall-area parking lots looking like lakes, and sent politicians, bureaucrats and others scurrying to declare emergencies and to tap federal disaster aid. Cars fell into sinkholes, buildings were swept away by mudslides and countless basements filled with brown water.

At the Lake Superior Zoo, Berlin, our popular polar bear, had to be tranquilized after getting out of her rain-swollen enclosure; and Feisty and Helen, a couple of seals, flopped their way onto nearby Grand Avenue before being rescued and returned. At least 11 other zoo animals drowned in the flood.

And that wasn’t the worst of it. That maybe hasn’t come yet – and hopefully won’t – as the curious inch curiously and dangerously too close to floodwaters and the flood damage. For a little peek. To see for themselves. At least two near-drownings already were reported, including a little boy swept away after falling into a sewer. We can be thankful for only “near” drownings.

And we can relish a reminder we’re not always in control, that we’re not really in charge.

Wednesday left that clear. We suddenly couldn’t move around like we’re accustomed to as washed-away roads and highways were closed one after another. We couldn’t stay in touch as communication lines fell inoperable, especially up the North Shore. Some of us couldn’t stay in our homes: The Fond du Lac neighborhood and the city of Scanlon were evacuated. And others couldn’t even heat up dinner as power was knocked out for many hundreds.

The cleanup will take weeks, months, perhaps even years. Entire sections of Skyline Parkway and other roadways simply fell away. Cars were destroyed by rushing waters. Basements were soaked through.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack and U.S. Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar all contacted Duluth Mayor Don Ness on Wednesday to pledge support and assistance. Dayton and Cravaack are expected to be in Duluth today to see the damage firsthand. Franken vowed to come “as soon as possible.”

Local musician Preston Gunderson wrote the Duluth City Council about putting on a “citywide benefit concert for the victims of our horrible flood. … I thought it would be a great way to bring the city together, and to help raise money for those who have lost so much.”

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