Editor's Note: The following is a personal report from St. Louis Park City Council Member Anne Mavity. Mavity was in Duluth this past week to attend the League of Minnesota Cities' Annual Conference and Marketplace, which took place June 20-22, and got a chance to tour the storm damage firsthand.
The beautiful weather and sunshine along Duluth's Canal Park gave no hint of the terrible destruction record rains created just hours earlier. Despite the warnings and pictures on TV, I joined nearly 400 other city officials in Duluth for our annual League of Minnesota Cities conference. At our opening session, Duluth Mayor Don Ness received a standing ovation, which he humbly accepted on behalf of all the "hard-working city staff and residents” who are dealing with the clean up from the 10 inches rain that fell in 24 hours, a record-crushing amount that overwhelmed city sewer systems. Mayor Ness's main message was clear: Duluth is open for business.
Canal Park, where most tourists spend time in Duluth, shows few indications of the destructive rains. Instead, beautiful 75 degree weather and bright sunshine framed the famous lift bridge and barges in the harbor. While the water in the Lake Superior's harbor is stained red-orange from the iron-ore laden debris that washed into the lake, everything else here was as pleasant and beautiful as always. The city of Duluth is hoping people still come to enjoy the city and the area for the coming July 4th weekend, as tourist dollars in this busy time sustain the area year round.
After the conference concluded for the evening last night, I took a walk up to the top of the steep hill that frames the downtown. Little evidence of the rains could be seen initially, but the higher up the hill I climbed, into the residential neighborhoods, the more I could see how the rains damaged the streets and sidewalks. At times, it was a bit disconcerting to walk in the middle of the street, while seeing sink holes to the right and left. Several places, the sidewalks completely collapsed and were hanging on precariously. Clean up efforts have begun, with some residents already cleaning out their basements and putting their flood-damaged and ruined clothes and furniture on the side of the street.
So damage is evident, but tourists will have to search around to see it. Come to Duluth, enjoy the perfect weather, spend your tourist dollars, and help make sure local businesses survive this rebuilding period. Plus, for those of you who hadn't previously planned ahead, hotel rooms are available because so many have been scared off by the news reports. But from my hotel window in Canal Park, it is as beautiful and entrancing as ever.