DULUTH — This past weekend was the wettest three-day period since Duluth's historic and devastating June 2012 flood that caused massive sinkholes and allowed a polar bear and two seals to briefly escape from the Lake Superior Zoo.
Scattered showers and storms are expected to last into Tuesday, but the heavy rain that wiped out roads and caused creeks to rage has passed. All of the roads that closed, including the high-traffic photo-friendly splash zone near Target, have reopened.
City and county officials on Monday credited the weather event in 2012 with preparing the region for the most recent deluge.
"We fared quite well, thanks in part to some of the resiliency that we have put in place since the 2012 flood," Mayor Emily Larson said during a news conference Monday afternoon at the Public Safety Building. "Thanks in part because we have, unfortunately, more experience than we would like to have in how we respond to storm events and how quick we can get things moving."
The Duluth Airport recorded just more than 4.95 inches through midday Monday.
St. Louis County officials have estimated up to $200,000 in damage so far — an early count, according to St. Louis County Public Works Director Jim Foldesi. Total combined damage throughout affected communities must exceed $440,000 for state disaster relief.
Most of the storm damage hit the city's east side — the Tischer Creek, Miller Creek and Chester Creek watersheds, according to Jim Benning, the city's director of public works and utilities. A handful of culverts required tending. By Monday afternoon, six grader crews followed by gravel trucks were out fixing washed-out alleys and gravel roads. Sweeping operations will comb the city on Tuesday.
"The damage was not as bad as it could have been," Benning said. "I drove around [Sunday] looking for carnage and didn't find any, fortunately."
St. Louis County had about 25 spots that were damaged, mostly in the southeast corner of the county — divided between shoulder washouts and culverts on gravel roads. Foldesi said he expected all but a handful of St. Louis County roads to be open and repairs completed by the end of Monday.
"It is the kind of damage that can be fixed in days — not weeks and months and years, as we saw back in 2012," said Foldesi. "The flood really did have a silver lining in 2012. We were able to replace a lot of our structures and increase capacities."
Western Lake Superior Sanitary District, which has an average flow of up to 40 million gallons of wastewater a day, peaked at above 100 million gallons over the weekend. There were overflows in three locations, but no serious incidents according to Marianne Bohren, the district's executive director.