Flooding disaster averted, thanks to weather changeIt felt like more than a minor flood standing next to the Thomson Dam near Jay Cooke State Park on Monday and Tuesday, where water pounded out of the floodgates at a tremendous rate before continuing its rapid journey through the state park and on to Lake Superior.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
River Inn owner Randy Stolan can remember when the waters of the St. Louis River ran so high, a person could canoe through the parking lot at the bar and grill in Scanlon.
Right now, anyone foolish enough to put a canoe on the river could only canoe up to the back deck.
“It’s 2 ½ feet from the deck at the southeast corner of the building,” Stolan said Tuesday afternoon, when the river was at 10.7 feet. “Back in 1973, when I helped build this place, the water was over 12 feet.
“Still, this is the highest I’ve seen in since I’ve owned the place over the past two years.”
By the time the Pine Journal is published, the worst of the flooding should be over, according to National Weather Service Meteorologist Dean Packingham, who works out of the Duluth NWS office.
“It’s coming up much less rapidly now than the last couple days [when 5.5 inches of rain fell],” Packingham said, noting that the river forecast center had predicted the river would crest at 10.7 feet. (Although that crest was originally predicted for midnight Wednesday, not Tuesday afternoon.)
“We are in a minor flood category right now,” he added, explaining that the category would change to moderate flooding at 11 feet.
It felt like more than a minor flood standing next to the Thomson Dam near Jay Cooke State Park on Monday and Tuesday, where water pounded out of the floodgates at a tremendous rate before continuing its rapid journey through the state park and on to Lake Superior.
However, because the forecast for the rest of the week doesn’t include more heavy showers, now it’s just a matter of waiting for the rainwater that has already fallen to work its way through the system.
Packingham said Northland residents could expect cool nights and mostly sunny days until the weekend, when it’s expected to warm up again.
“We got a break [in the rainfall] here,” he said. “That helps a lot.”
According to the NWS, the St. Louis River is expected to fall below flood stage Friday morning.
The highest recorded level for the St. Louis River at Scanlon is 15.8 feet in 1950, according to Packingham.
The recent weather pattern of repeated severe thunderstorms dropping lots of moisture and some wicked hail was influenced by Tropical Storm Alberto, the meteorologist noted. However, that “blocking pattern” caused by the East Coast storm has dissipated, he said.
In southern Carlton County, folks in Moose Lake were sandbagging over Memorial Day weekend as water levels in the city’s Moosehead Lake got higher and higher before cresting Tuesday night.
Moose Lake Police Chief Bryce Bogenholm said high waters threatened a couple different places in town: on Lakeshore Drive by Arrowhead and a home near the public boat launch on Birch and Third streets. After calling around for sandbags – with the help of Brian Belich, Carlton County’s emergency management official – volunteers and the fire department started filling sandbags, then Tuesday he was able to enlist the help of a work crew from the prison in Willow River.
“The mayor said it was the worst he’d seen in probably 25 years,” Bogenholm said. “There was so much rain in such a short amount of time, it just kept rising.”
On Wednesday, Bogenholm said the river had already come down eight to 12 inches.
“Yeah, you could say we dodged a bullet,” he said, “very much so. I think there was probably another 12 inches to go before we had a lot of houses in trouble.”
Not before making an impression. If the flooding weren’t enough, some places in Carlton County – including southwest Cloquet, Sawyer and west of Carlton – reported golf-ball-sized hail on Monday. In Esko, weather spotters reported half-inch-sized hail.
“[The hail] was extremely variable,” Packingham said. “Some places in Cloquet didn’t get any hail.”
Duluth has officially recorded 6.6 inches of rain in May, more than double the usual 3 inches for the entire month but still short of the record of 7.99 inches set in May 1879.
The Northland has also just come through a very wet 10 days, with 5.75 inches falling from May 19-28, with at least some rain falling on eight of those 10 days.