Duluth Reflects on Devastating Flood of 2012

"I hadn't been through anything quite like that in my 30 years of running restaurants."

DULUTH, Minn. – Seven years ago, the Northland was struck by a historic flash flood that destroyed cities, including Duluth.

On June 19, 2012, heavy rain rolled through Duluth prompting the entire city to take cover.

The next morning many woke up to damaged homes, roads and other infrastructure.

More than 800 houses were assessed by the city for livability. Out of those, about 20 were damaged beyond repair.

“There was a lot of trauma and a lot of uneasiness. People were still feeling the effects of I’m displaced,” said Keith Hamre, Director of Planning and Economic Development.

“It was really trying to deal with how do I figure out my next steps. What am I going to do? I’ve got a family. Where am I going to go,” Hamre explains.

Miles of roads were also ripped apart and washed out.

Former Duluth Mayor Don Ness reflects on the day the storm started.

“I was downtown at Zeitgeist having dinner and I remember running to my car through a very hard rain.”

He had no idea what the flood would turn into until he got the phone call from emergency personnel.

But looking back years later he is grateful the safety of the community was maintained.

“Its probably the thing I’m most proud of. Credit goes to the entire team, especially police and fire. We didn’t have a single human fatality through this devastation. That was because of a coordinated effort in making sure we got the message out of be safe,” said Ness.

Some businesses were also left to salvage everything they could.

“I hadn’t been through anything quite like that in my 30 years of running restaurants,”  said Grandma’s Director of Operations Tony Boen.

Grandma’s on Maple Grove was hit hard after Miller Creek overflowed and covered the road.

Nearly thirty inches of water filled the restaurant causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.

“The bones of our building didn’t get hurt, but we did have a lot of remediation. We had to cut the walls up to what was damaged and wet,” said Boen.

Unfortunately, the restaurant did not have flood insurance.

All of the repairs had to be paid for out of pocket.

But after fixing up everything, the Director of Operations says the business is now better than ever.

“We really turned a bad situation into a better situation,” said Boen.

State and FEMA funding was used to repair damage caused by the flooding.

But it took nearly four years to get the city back to its previous state.

Former Mayor Don Ness was asked if he would do anything differently.

He said communication could have been improved, but a lot of valuable lessons were learned.

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