DULUTH - Hundreds of volunteers scooped up mud and swept away debris at Duluth's Lake Superior Zoo over the weekend, cleaning the thick muck left behind by flooding.
Floodwaters engulfed the zoo Wednesday, killing about a dozen animals in a barnyard exhibit and allowing a polar bear and two seals to escape temporarily. The nearby Kingsbury Creek overflowed, covering half the zoo's surface and leaving some exhibits under 8 to 10 feet of water.
With the creek back in its banks Saturday, volunteers arrived in swarms to help clean up the aftermath, the Duluth News Tribune reported.
"I felt like I had to be here to clean up," said Josie LaPorte, 23, of nearby Superior, Wis., who worked in guest services at the zoo last summer. "The zoo has done so much for me. So I couldn't see myself being anywhere else."
The receding water left behind branches, debris and mud. Workers came armed with shovels, pails, rakes and chain saws.
Sam Maida, the zoo's chief executive, said 200 volunteers worked Saturday and 150 Sunday. He said the work was going faster than he imagined, although it was still too early to say when the zoo will reopen. "We need to get open again because we need to start generating revenue," said Maida, who added that July 4th is a good target.
A preliminary estimate from the city pegged the cost of zoo repairs as between $500,000 and $600,000, Maida said. The volunteer work will help bring those costs down, he said, but some of the damage was to structures that will need to be professionally repaired.