Torrential rains spur washouts, flood roads in Douglas, Carlton countiesUPDATE: The Red Cross is opening shelter for stranded Douglas County residents.
By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune
Deluge drenches Northland
Carlton, Douglas Counties hardest hit with roads washed out
Powerful thunderstorms early Tuesday washed out roads in Douglas and Carlton Counties, caused a mudslide on Minnesota Highway 23 and dumped up to 6 inches of rain on parts of the Northland.
The storms, which included stunning lightning and window-rattling thunder for hours on end, hit some areas Monday evening then broadened to drop 2 to 6 inches of rain across the entire region early Tuesday.
Radar soundings showed some areas may have seen more than 7 inches of rain, said Steve Gohde, observation program leader for the National Weather Service in Duluth.
“Statistically, you’d expect to see rainfall totals like that only about once every 100 years, although in reality it happens more than that,” Gohde said. “We normally just don’t see that much rain in such a short time span.”
For the second time in less than a month, Douglas County Board Chairman Doug Finn declared a state of emergency — a declaration he never made before in his 30 years in county government. The first followed a tornado that touched down July 1 in Solon Springs.
Wisconsin Highway 35 south of Superior remained closed late Tuesday, according to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. Road crews were hoping to re-open Douglas County Highways B, M and W, the Pioneer Trail, Milchesky Road, the Chaffey-Foxboro Road and the Patzau-Foxboro Road where washouts occurred.
The Douglas County Sheriff's Office responded to an incident on Highway 35 at the Black River crossing where one or more vehicles had to be towed out of the rushing river. Residents of Solon Springs reported trees down and water rising into yards and threatening homes.
“We have some people who can’t get out of their houses because so many culverts are out, and some people who can’t get home,” said Nap Nault, a Town of Summit resident who surveyed the damage Tuesday. “A lot of the roads are just gone in spots. The culverts are gone, washed away.”
Highway 35 was washed out in three different spots near the Black River, Nault said, and some people were using the Gandi Dancer ATV and snowmobile trail to drive home.
Officials said up to 200 Douglas County residents might have been unable to return to their homes Tuesday evening, spurring the Northland Chapter of the American Red Cross to open a shelter at the Superior Town Hall.
Most streams across the Northland are flowing at unusually high levels and many ponds and swamps are overflowing. In Carlton County, a mudslide partially blocked Highway 23 near Holyoke for a few hours, and several roads in the Holyoke areas were closed due to washouts caused by gushing streams. Some power outages and trees down were reported in the hardest-hit areas.
In Duluth, rain water flowed into the sanitary sewer system as often occurs, causing sewage overflows at Fifth Avenue East near the Fitger’s Brewery Complex and near the Polk Street pump station in West Duluth. New holding basins are being built at those spots to capture just such overflows.
While Douglas County officials were optimistic the water would start receding by Tuesday evening, they were urging residents to use caution when the water recedes because roads and culverts could be undermined. Officials were also cautioning people to use care on the banks of swollen rivers.
“We haven’t had any injuries … and we would like to keep it that way,” said Keith Kesler, Douglas County director of emergency management communication.
Superior Telegram Editor Shelley Nelson contributed to this report.
Rainfall totals as of 9 a.m.: