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It's been three weeks since many northern Minnesota home and business owners woke up to find water filling the basement or surrounding the building. Carlton County responded to that flood with remarkable speed. Volunteers were dispatched in the wee hours of June 20 to make shelters, evacuate residents in danger, make sandbags and otherwise help those who needed it. In roughly 24 hours, people filled and placed 80,000 sandbags in Moose Lake. Volunteer firefighters and law enforcement officials evacuated two-thirds of Carlton that first day.
The list of national and regional organizations currently volunteering with local flood relief efforts reads like a church directory. The Adventist Community Services is in charge of the warehouse of goods located at the Cloquet Armory. NECHAMA Jewish Response to Disaster specializes in disinfecting flooded homes. Samaritan's Purse and Catholic United Response is helping in Moose Lake, while the Christian Disaster Response volunteers - who are Mennonites from Barron, Wis.
There was something for everyone in Cloquet on Wednesday. For athletes or folks who simply wanted a challenge, the second annual Sawdust 5K was a great way to start the day.
Telephone, Internet and 911 service in Carlton County was disrupted shortly after 10:30 a.m. Tuesday and it stayed that way for nearly nine hours. Officials quickly figured out the problem was tied to people and businesses who had service with CenturyLink, formerly known as Qwest. An underground line accidentally was severed by a contractor who was working on a sewer line in Proctor, said Carrie Amman, a spokeswoman for CenturyLink. Joe Addy, of Superior Computer Products, contracts with the city of Cloquet to manage its computers and information technology systems.
It was hard to miss the bright yellow planes swooping through the skies of Carlton County this week, flying low, loud engines making them even more noticeable. What wasn't immediately obvious was their mission: Like barely visible confetti, the planes and their pilots were dropping tiny green flakes of a manmade pheromone designed to prevent the creation of any future generations of gypsy moths. With the exception of Jay Cooke Park, it is the first time the Minnesota Department of Agriculture has sprayed for gypsy moths - a non-native, leaf-eating insect - in Carlton County.
With flood damage estimates for the Northland now at approximately $109 million for public infrastructure alone, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton sent a request to President Obama on Friday for a disaster declaration for counties and reservations affected by last week's downpour. "I have no doubt it will be approved by the President and signed," Dayton said. "It's a question of when.
By the time the little "frogman" dropped out of the sky and told them it was time to leave, Thomson's Alan and Linda Johnson had reached a similar conclusion. They just weren't sure how to make it happen.
"It's just stuff," said the firefighter who hadn't been home long enough in six days to get his own soaking wet items out of the basement. "They make more toys every day," said the man at the flood relief center, who had cars, four-wheelers and other expensive items ruined by the waters of the St. Louis River. "They can be replaced." We heard similar statements from many Carlton County residents in the days since the flood waters came and went so quickly. All of them were talking about their own losses, most of them significant.
Carlton Fire Chief Scott Bodin got the call from Carlton County Emergency Management Director Brian Belich at about 3:30 a.m. Wednesday. The rain was still coming down, and the water from Otter Creek was everywhere and rising fast. Normally the creek is anywhere from 10-20 feet wide. "Today you can't talk in feet," Bodin said last Thursday.
What started as a plan to mobilize volunteers and donations quickly morphed into a one-stop-shop for all things flood-related. The Flood Relief Center for Carlton County is located inside the National Guard Armory in Cloquet, located on Highway 33 South. The center hours are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week, until the flood cleanup is finished. Upstairs there's a call center - phone 218-384-1112 - manned by at last half a dozen volunteers.