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Duluth, Minn., residents are in shock after rains and floods ravage their city

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news Willmar, 56201
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

DULUTH -- Darrin Berg stood on the sidewalk Wednesday along 59th Avenue West near Raleigh Street, 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.

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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.

With water seeping into the first floor, Berg pondered what he and his flooded neighbors would do.

"What's going to be left?" he asked.

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."

They turned off all the lights in the car to save the battery, set their cell phone alarms to remind them to check the water level -- and tried to sleep. After about an hour, a fire truck came and shuttled them to safety. Then they spent several hours on a Duluth Transit Authority bus parked on Highway 23, waiting with other evacuees until the last one was brought out. From there they were transported to First United Methodist Church in Duluth.

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.

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, who hadn't been asked to evacuate yet, though others in the area had.

"We're fine, we have power. We don't have a basement," Selma Stephenson said. "But we have waterfront property now."

At the south entrance of Morgan Park, a crowd was gathered this morning looking at the flood waters.

"I've never seen this in my entire life; not in 27 years," Courtney Hatland said. "It's pretty crazy, insane."

Ashley Peterson has lived in Morgan Park for 17 years. "It's never done this," she said.

Trisha Giernett said, "I hate feeling trapped with a sick kid."

Josh Ard of Perham, Minn., was staying in a motor home at the Fond du Lac Campground with his girlfriend and four kids when they were evacuated.

"They knocked on the door, and by 11:30 we were heading up the hill," Ard said. "It was rising fast. ...

"We were scared. ... There was water on both sides, inching closer."

After struggling to find his way on unfamiliar roads in the dark and rain, Ard moved the motor home to higher ground in what he was told was a safe spot. On Wednesday morning, they found themselves surrounded by rising water and were evacuated by Duluth firefighters in a fire truck. At about 6:30 a.m. they were aboard a Duluth Transit Authority bus in a safe zone in Fond du Lac, waiting for a ride to an evacuation center and planning to stay in a hotel Wednesday night before -- they hoped -- retrieving the motor home today.

Mike Devney took in the muddy view of the Duluth Harbor Wednesday afternoon from a Skyline Parkway overlook near the Enger Park Golf Course.

"I have never seen the harbor quite like this," said the 20-year Duluth resident, who came to check out the course, which had Coffee Creek overflowing, creating a river across Skyline. "I guess I won't be golfing for a couple of days."

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