COOK, Minn. -- Under a bluebird sky, Gov. Tim Walz promised the state's support Friday as he toured the swamped streets of Cook, Minn.

Joined by other state leaders, the governor visited hard-hit northeast Minnesota to talk to officials in Biwabik, where he saw a washed-out section of the popular Mesabi Trail. In Cook, he rode in an amphibious vehicle through downtown, still under several feet of water in parts after Tuesday's torrential rain.

"This is pretty devastating," Walz said after talking with local residents and business owners.

A few wore tall galoshes and sat in lawn chairs overlooking the main downtown thoroughfare, already scented by fetid water. Nearby was the state's oldest continuously running single screen movie theater, encircled by sandbags but flooded nonetheless. High levels still surrounded other downtown buildings, a credit union, pharmacy and café among them. Bunches of nightcrawlers curled together at the edges of the flooded road.

Walz promised local officials and residents that the state would be there to help, and would urgently look to apply for federal aid. The state is lucky to have a $26 million disaster relief fund, he said, that could act as backup if needed. Walz encouraged the crowd to save receipts for accurate damage assessments, and to look after neighbors.

"This is going to be weeks of recovery," Walz said. "Keep an eye on each other. ... This is very emotional. Folks have lost all of the things they own."

Between 5 and 8 inches of rain fell around Cook. That added to the swollen Little Fork River, sending water into the streets and homes of the city, located about 90 miles north of Duluth.

Cook is a tourist town, said its mayor, Harold Johnston, "and this is coming immediately after a snowless winter that damaged our winter businesses."

"But we think we can recover," he said, with the help of the state. "In fact, we know we can."

Cook resident Theresa Drift is temporarily homeless after water seeped in through the sewer system via her sinks and toilet, flooding her basement. She's camping out with her children in a friend's barn.

"This is really terrible," she said, "but we're safe."

There is hope that Cook will escape additional rain forecast for Minnesota this weekend. Officials were bracing for a repeat of the flooding of 2012, when heavy rains wreaked havoc on northeastern Minnesota.

"The forecast is trending in Cook's favor," said Ketzel Levens, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Duluth. She said Tuesday's rain hit that area the hardest, and it's not likely to be deluged again in the next 48 hours.

The damage to vast swaths of northeast Minnesota Tuesday and Wednesday prompted St. Louis County to declare a disaster Thursday. The storm drenched the region, flooding residential areas and cleaving some roads in half. Key damage reported so far includes:

  • About 170 campers at the YMCA Camp du Nord near Ely were stuck behind a washed-out road.
  • A major washout exposed Biwabik's underground utilities infrastructure, affecting water supplies and services at Giant's Ridge Recreation Area. Biwabik officials said they hoped to end a "boil water" order Friday afternoon.
  • Flooding reportedly washed out railroad tracks in northern St. Louis County, on a critical artery linking to Canada.

St. Louis County Commissioner Keith Nelson estimated at least $50 million in damages thus far, and county leaders said the storm ranks as the second-largest natural disaster in three decades, after a 2012 flood.