Although the mayor of Cloquet declared a local emergency, away from the banks of the St. Louis River much of the city appears unscathed by this week's massive rainfall and flooding. The sidewalks of the bridge across the river bear a steady stream of sightseers, coming to look at the river and the city's flooded campground. On the other side of the bridge, a massive pile of debris is stacked up against a railroad bridge, which is holding its own so far against the raging river currents.
But appearances can be deceptive.
According to Caleb Peterson, assistant city engineer, the city is in waiting mode until the water levels go down significantly.
"It's difficult to do a lot of assessment until we can see the problem areas," Peterson said. "A lot of our problems will likely be in the sewer system, but we can't get a camera down there until the water recedes."
The city is doing relief pumping in the sanitary sewer of the most problematic areas of Cloquet, he said, explaining that city workers are trying to bring the water levels down faster. As for plans to clean up Dunlap Island's Spafford and Voyageur's parks, Peterson said the city will probably ask for volunteers sometime next week.
A press release issued by the city explains that Cloquet does not have any method to provide individual cleanup or money for cleanup resulting from the storm or overflows of the storm water or sanitary sewer systems.
"Individuals should take whatever steps are necessary to remove any damaged or destroyed materials from their property. In the case that certain State or Federal assistance may become available, we would encourage all impacted residents to photograph and document any clean up efforts as best they can," City Administrator Brian Fritsinger said. "There is no guarantee of any outside financial assistance being available to anyone, but by documenting problems and expenses as much as possible this information can be invaluable down the road."
By declaring a state of emergency, however, city officials have taken a first step toward accessing any state or federal funds that may become available.
"With many homes suffering from damage from water and many of our businesses and industries being flooded we want to be sure to follow the proper procedures to help them in any way we can," said Mayor Ahlgren. "Our staff is working hard to ensure that we are doing everything possible for the community to recover as quickly as it can. Over this next week we will continue to reach out to our county, state and federal partners and will hopefully be able to provide more information as we move forward."
A meeting of Carlton County, city and township officials is scheduled for 3 p.m. today (Friday), and U.S. Sen. Al Franken is also visiting Carlton County this afternoon to survey the flood damage and talk to local officials.
Road closures throughout the region continue to be a problem. If travelling please consider either of the following links to find out the condition of area roads:
Shamrock Landfill in Cloquet has been temporarily authorized as a result of the emergency to accept brush and construction debris, including carpets and furniture, from Cloquet property owners. Municipal garbage will not be accepted. Shamrock has agreed to do so at no charge to the residents who can show a current ID with a Cloquet address. The industrial landfill can be accessed through its Highway 45 entrance, just south of the Park and Ride.