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Duluth News Tribune staff, Published June 20 2012

Residents call floodwaters ‘unbelievable’

DULUTH, Minn. – Darrin Berg stood on the sidewalk along 59th Avenue West near Raleigh Street on Wednesday morning, looking down at his home of 14 years surrounded by the floodwaters of Keene Creek. At one point the water had reached his first-floor windows and front door.

Berg said he looked outside at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday to see how the creek was doing, and it was running high, but he didn’t feel the house was threatened. “A half-hour later I looked out, and my yard was gone,” he said.

“Unbelievable. You expect blizzards in Duluth,” Berg said. “You don’t expect floods.”

Berg said his two sons and a grandchild also were home at the time, but everyone got out safely. They were able to move vehicles to safety, and they moved electronics and valuables to the second floor. But everything in the basement is ruined, he said – by the time they realized what was happening, the basement was nearly full of water.

Ballet props damaged

Robert Gardner said he didn’t have a good feeling when he stepped into shin-deep water at one of the Minnesota Ballet’s storage spaces in West Duluth.

Some of the backdrops used for ballet productions had suffered water damage. A crew spent the day bringing the drops to Symphony Hall at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center, where they could hang to dry over the stage.

“We’re afraid there might be a ton of loss,” he said of the hand-painted backdrops for performances such as “Sleeping Beauty,” “Cinderella,” “Dracula” and the old version of “The Nutcracker.”

Gardner said it could be hundreds of thousands of dollars of damage.

“You never know if the paint’s going to bleed or if it’s going to mold,” he said.

Marie Lamb of Tennessee; her sister, Marsha Turner of Oklahoma; and Marsha’s daughter, McKayla, 9, were driving up Highway 23 early Wednesday, nearing the completion of a long trip to see Marie and Marsha’s mother, who is being treated at Essentia Health-St. Mary’s Medical Center after suffering a heart attack.

They ran into water on the road in the Fond du Lac neighborhood, and “took a turn onto a side street to get out of the water, and couldn't go forward or backward” in their small Neon, Lamb said. They called 911, said they needed help, and waited for rescue crews to arrive.

“I’ve never been in a flood like that before,” Turner said. “It was scary.”

Saving cars

Workers for Krenzen Auto in Hermantown began moving the dealer’s vehicles at 1:30 a.m.

The lot Wednesday morning showed a few vehicles submerged in deep water, “but we got the majority of them up to higher ground,” said owner Scott Krenzen.

Street paddle

In the Fond du Lac neighborhood, Selma and Jeff Stephenson took a canoe trip down West Fifth Street near their home, which had a flooded front yard.

The water on the street was at least 2 feet deep, said the couple.

“We’re fine, we have power. We don’t have a basement,” Selma Stephenson said. “But we have waterfront property now.”

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Compiled by News Tribune reporters Jana Hollingsworth, Peter Passi, Steve Kuchera, Christa Lawler and Andrew Krueger.