Historic flooding leaves some area athletic facilities out of orderLocal athletic facilities, including Moose Lake’s hockey arena and Esko’s multisport complex off Canosia Road just outside of town, were severely damaged by the flash flooding last week.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Most days, there’s a good chance a firmly hit ball could reach the Midway River from the Esko baseball field.
Last week, the river met the ballpark.
With up to a foot of rainfall in 24 hours, epic flooding hit the area a week ago. Roads were destroyed, homes ruined and lives impacted. Local athletic facilities, including Moose Lake’s hockey arena and Esko’s multisport complex off Canosia Road just outside of town, were also severely damaged by the downpour.
Esko High School baseball coach Ben Haugen said the Midway River flooded the complex last Tuesday, soaking everything from the hockey shelter to the football and softball fields as well as the parking lot. Wednesday, he noticed the baseball field.
“I was shocked when I went out there; the entire field was covered,” said Haugen, who toured the destruction with his son. “We have a 6-foot outfield fence and the river went right up to the top. The entire field was completely under water. It was just sad to see.”
Haugen noted a pair of sheds – which store the high school and summer programs’ equipment and field maintenance machinery – took a hit. In addition to a drenched lawn mower, drag and dozens of bags of chalk and field dry, Haugen said they lost gloves, catcher’s gear, a dozen wooden bats and 10 dozen balls. He estimated they lost around $2,000 worth of equipment, as the only things salvageable were their aluminum bats.
“The bases must have weighed about 20 pounds apiece,” Haugen continued. “The mound is completely gone. Home plate has been washed out. Our dugouts have shifted. And our right field fence has collapsed. Kids were jumping off the dugouts to go swimming the next day. We won’t be playing baseball here the rest of the summer. We’re hoping for the best, but right now it’s all been a complete loss.”
Haugen added Esko’s American Legion baseball game scheduled for Thursday evening with Moose Lake has been postponed, as neither small town can host the event at either of their current facilities.
Moose Lake may have taken the hardest hit from the torrential rain, as the school may have damages into the millions with the overflow of both Moose Horn River and Moosehead Lake into town. The baseball field was swamped. Even worse, the hockey arena – with all its ice-making equipment – is in complete disarray.
“The Zamboni was under water, our skate sharpener and the entire concession stand and locker rooms and bathrooms will need to be redone,” Moose Lake Area boys hockey coach Josh Gamst said Tuesday night following a hockey board meeting. “The water must have been 3½ to 4 feet up the boards. It’ll take some time and effort, but we’re hoping to play next year. I’m not sure, though.”
Gamst explained that engineers will examine the floor in the arena soon to determine the next step in the rebuilding process. Yet, the second-year coach said much more than the arena was affected last week.
“A lot of homes were demolished in this small community, it’s just unfortunate,” Gamst said. “Hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage have been done and I think this is going to affect a lot of people for quite a while. Hopefully everything will come together. But it’s been hard.”
Over in Barnum, Dave Duesler said the Carlton County Fairgrounds were submerged last week, noting that the Moose Horn River took over the town of close to 600 people.
“The river runs behind the fairgrounds and water was just all over the place,” said Duesler, who lives a few miles out of town in the country. “There must have been about 2½ feet of water in downtown Barnum. You would never imagine that. It was just incredible.”
Duesler, a longtime baseball coach and softball assistant for the Bombers, explained downtown Barnum was affected the most, as the river winds through town. On the bright side, Duesler said the ball fields were just fine.
“My daughter Karianna has been up at the fields umpiring the past couple nights,” Duesler said. “Downtown was mainly just affected.”
Much like Moose Lake and Barnum, Carlton was invaded by water, while the St. Louis River overflowed into parts of Cloquet. Duluth was devastated as well, with sinkholes, road closings and zoo animals floating down the streets. The annual Lake Superior Classic softball tournament was cancelled, too.
The Ashley Abrahamson Memorial softball tournament was played Saturday and Sunday at Braun Park in Cloquet. Longtime park manager Kenny Joyce said the 12-year-old park handled the water with ease.
“We could have played last Wednesday night,” Joyce said. “With those light ditches around it and on top of all of that gravel, things drain well up there. It was perfect. It was a little effect.”
Joyce explained that over time, he has learned not to touch Braun Park if standing water sits on top of the six available diamonds. He said he and his field maintenance crew wait, rather than squeegee and rake up.
“That just makes it muddier,” Joyce said. “We just need to wait for the rain to stop. Once it stops, let it sit alone two hours. Two hours and then a little field work and we’ll be good to go. That’s all it takes.”
Joyce recalled driving up to the park a couple times last week after the rain subsided. Moments when the rain slowed down were rare, however.
“It never did stop,” Joyce recalled. “It was like that everywhere. Every time you thought it was going to stop, there it came again.”