DULUTH – City officials were out early Tuesday morning assessing the damage wreaked by gale-force winds and an angry Lake Superior a day prior.
Brighton Beach, up the shore on the city’s edge, remains closed as crews work to reinforce a road after it was pummeled by Monday’s waves. A loop at the end of Canal Park will also be barricaded until workers can remove debris from the storm.
Otherwise, recovery efforts were well on their way. Though Monday’s storm felled trees and power lines, and subsequent flooding caused road closures, by Tuesday afternoon most routes had reopened, officials said at a news conference.
City spokeswoman Kate Van Daele said though it is too early to know exactly how much harm Monday’s waves and winds did, it was less severe than storms that hammered Duluth in April and last October, when the city received state and federal aid to support recovery efforts.
The city has a week to determine how much it expects repairs to cost. It will report that amount to the county, which — if the total is more than $384,000 — can declare a state of disaster to request assistance from the state.
The threshold for federal aid is even higher, said Dewey Johnson, emergency coordinator for St. Louis County.
“These damages are never something that we want to deal with,” Van Daele said. “But unfortunately, we’ve just gotten used to this.”
Monday’s storm was one of the first tests of Duluth’s new Lakewalk, which is being renovated. A series of storms in recent years destroyed portions of the popular shoreline trail, costing the city millions in repairs.
City Administrator Jim Williams said the reconstructed Lakewalk — which was strengthened beneath the shoreline with the goal of making it more resilient — “performed precisely as designed, giving us further confidence that we have a solid engineering remedy that we can apply to other locations as we proceed over the next couple of years with reconstructing other segments of vulnerable shorelines.”
With Lake Superior’s water level nearing a record high for October, according to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, its shoreline could face increased pressure from Mother Nature.
Van Daele said while the high water certainly doesn’t help, if the conditions are right, storms can cause major damage regardless of the lake level. The challenge for Duluth, she added, is the frequency of the severe weather systems.
“Even scientists are trying to figure out climate change and certain patterns affect us. And we just know that we’re seeing patterns right now.”