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John Lundy, Forum Communications, Published June 22 2012

Population at shelters may rise after Duluth flood

DULUTH, Minn. – After housing more than 180 people in emergency shelters Wednesday night, Red Cross and Fond du Lac Band officials were preparing for the possibility of more in coming nights as the flood of 2012 continues to run its course.

“People don’t like to sleep in public shelters,” said Hanne Gonzalez, executive director of the Northland Red Cross. “When you’ve got these kinds of shelter numbers, you know you have a lot of people displaced.”

That number could rise, said Lynette Nyman, communications and government relations manager for the Northern Minnesota Region of the Red Cross.

“We’re planning to accept as many or more,” she said, adding, however: “I don’t know if those numbers will change.”

The Fond du Lac Band housed 124 people in the Fond du Lac Community Center with Red Cross support. The Red Cross sheltered 26 people at Duluth’s First United Methodist Church on Wednesday night and 33 at the Scanlon Community Center, Nyman said.

On Thursday, the relief organization moved its Duluth shelter to the old Secondary Technical Center next to Central High School because the church needed its facility back, Nyman said.

Laura MacArthur School, which had been planned as the shelter site, proved unsuitable, said Verne Wagner, a Red Cross volunteer.

Susan Stanich, 71, said she had friends to stay with after being evacuated from her home in Duluth’s Fond du Lac neighborhood (not part of the reservation) on an airboat on Wednesday afternoon.

Stanich returned on Thursday afternoon with hopes of taking a friend’s canoe back to her home to check on her pets. She said she was frustrated that police wouldn’t allow her access but were allowing neighborhood residents who hadn’t evacuated to go in and out.

Duluth police Public Information Officer Jim Hansen said the situation on Highway 23 leading into the neighborhood had been in flux, perhaps leading some residents to think they weren’t being treated unfairly. But as of Thursday afternoon, the Minnesota Department of Transportation had ordered the road closed, Hansen said.

Stanich said many of her neighbors are staying with friends and relatives.

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John Lundy writes for The Duluth News Tribune