Floodwaters recede, revealing more widespread damageby Conrad Wilson, Minnesota Public Radio
DULUTH, Minn. — Clean-up is underway in the northeastern part of the state after record rains flooded communities in and around Duluth. The water is slowly receding, but officials say it could be above flood stage in some places for the next week.
Officials and homeowners in the flood zone spent much of the weekend trying to grasp the scope of the damage.
A preliminary estimate shows at least 770 homes in parts of Duluth and towns to the southwest have some degree of flooding beyond a wet basement. Sewer systems and roads also need repair.
Over the weekend, the City of Duluth turned its attention to its badly damaged Fond-du-Lac neighborhood. About 200 homes there sit near the banks of the St. Louis River. And about 80 have been damaged by the flooding.
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Dave Montgomery, Duluth's chief administrative officer, stood on the main road through the neighborhood on Sunday, trying to get an accurate sense of the damage.
"This is definitely the hardest hit," he said. "There's serious road damage in other areas around town, but this is the area -- Fond-du-Lac, Water Street -- where people have really been seriously impacted, and where we're really focusing a lot of our resources -- county resources and Coast Guard resources."
From aboard a 22-foot US Coast Guard air boat Saturday on the St. Louis River, it was easier to see homes surrounded by several feet of brown, foamy water. A street sign marking the intersection of West 1st Street and 130th Avenue poked out of the water like a periscope. Trees and sticks once carried by the fast moving current are piled up like beaver dams. In one place a silver pontoon boat sat marooned on a pile of debris.
"There's still a lot of flooding. I'm looking around and there's a bunch of these port-a-potties that are actually tilted on their side either due to current or to the winds that were cutting through here," said Coast Guard Boatswain's Mate 3rd Class Kyle Abel. "If you look deeper in, it seems like there are still things that are salvageable back there, but a lot of stuff closer to the river here is completely covered."
Homeowners in towns southwest of Duluth also got a glimpse of the damage. About 40 miles away, water levels in Moose Lake were down and more roads were opening.
In many places people returned to their homes, finding them unlivable.
In the city of Thomson, near Jay Cooke State Park, parts of the town looked more like an earthquake hit than a flood.
For the first time since water took over the town, Joe Kulaszewicz was able to peer inside the door Sunday of the shuttered antique shop that he uses mostly for storage.
"Oh yeah, we had a few feet of water," he said. But there was a bright side: Piano still works."
The room was dark, but full of colored bottles, old signs and antiques. It smelled musty and wet. Mud covered part of the wood floor and water was still running under part of the building.
"I've really got to go through this yet and see what good stuff or bad stuff is here yet," he said, adding that he was nervous about what he's going to do with the building and says he might have to tear it down.
"It's more sad for a person that's got to go in their own house, I'd say that," he said. This ain't bad, the material junk, you know, it don't mean that much, but when your household is gone it's a little worse than this."
Next door Donna and Armas Koski were outside their house.
Donna said they're lucky to be alive after they waded across a knee deep river where their street had been before the flood.
"We're the last ones to get out of here. And then the neighbors up there they were taken out by helicopter," she said. "If we'd a slipped down here we'd a gone, you know."
Armas said the house is not structurally stable after walls in the basement collapsed. He's worried the floor might give in. And he doesn't know how to get his green Ford minivan out of the garage because the driveway looks like it's been jack-hammered.
"I don't know what to do. Shovel slowly at a time, I guess. Have to work a little each day, I guess," he said. "At my age I should just give up, but I can't do that, so. Been here 47 years and nothing like this ever happened."
Many of those in the flood zone did not have flood insurance. It's unclear right now whether any federal or state aid that might come will help them rebuild.
- Morning Edition, 06/25/2012, 6:50 a.m.