Lucie Amundsen, a Duluth writer and graduate student, is a source in MPR News' Public Insight Network.
Living on Lake Superior, one sees the dark storm clouds rolling in for miles. I was observing that just last night, as I stood on the Duluth Aerial Lift Bridge — having escaped from the "Mom Chair" at the Canal Park climbing gym my daughter attends. That's when the sheets of rain began. Sixteen hours and nine inches of water later, it still hasn't stopped.
The thunderclaps have been the kind I feel in my fillings — sharp and all too near. Accompanied by disembodied shouting in the dark, flashing lights and car alarms, we got little sleep in my typically dull neighborhood in Duluth's Central Hillside. "Up the hill," locals call it.
I am lucky. While I've been emptying my dehumidifier on the hour, a friend down the way has 30 inches of sewer water in her basement. But the real excitement is on the street.
Daybreak on my deck revealed a spot where the creek had washed away part of the iconic Skyline Parkway. A blue Toyota with Washington plates was sunk a good six feet into the ravine and quickly attracted gawkers like me.
Naomi, my alley neighbor, had brought the hapless motorists into her sun porch last night. Holding court this morning at the sinkhole, she regaled us with the details. We all leaned in to learn that they are tourists from Seattle here for last weekend's marathon. They have some nebulous family connection to Duluth. Most importantly, they are not hurt.
Other neighbors selflessly stayed up through the night, directing people away from the hazard. It took overwhelmed emergency crews hours to drop orange cones around the hole.
In the lull of heavy rain, we've been doing what neighbors do — gathering, chatting and comparing notes. "Did the seals from the zoo really crest over their enclosure and onto Grand Avenue? Did you hear the creek by the co-op on Fourth Street broke through the old retaining wall? Did you know both footbridges in Chester Bowl are washed out?"
That last one stings. I hike through the park several times a week, and one of those bridges my children and I have named the Fairy Bridge. We visit there often to build houses for the little people from bark and rocks and flowers, despite being too old for such folly. But it's the kind of place, with pine needle pathways and old wooden trusses, that lulls one into thinking anything is possible.
I suspect the snow-day feel will begin to wane soon. The heavy rains have started again and my teeth sense more thunder on the way. Soon I will put on my chore boots and head over to help the friend down the street with the standing sewer water, because that's also what neighbors do.