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County not immune to spate of flooding

Unrelenting rainfall this past spring has culminated in historic flooding across the state, especially during the first weekend of official summer last week. Carlton County was not spared, but while water levels were high and rapidly moving water posed a risk, the area was spared any major damage.

The St. Louis River in Scanlon crested at just more than 11 feet Monday, and slowly receded as the week went on. Carlton County Emergency Management director Marlyn Halvorson said close monitoring will continue. "It's going well," he said, especially compared to other parts of the state.

In the far north, the city of Cook was inundated with water, causing major damage to homes and businesses. Similar scenes played out in south and southwest parts of the state as lakes and rivers overflowed. A dam breach near Mankato early this week punctuated in dramatic fashion the water woes across the state.

The St. Louis River's crest stage of 11 feet typically causes "moderate flooding," according to historical standards set by the National Weather Service and other agencies. Earlier in the month, the river was half as high, at 5 feet. The last time the river was over 11 feet was during spring melts in 2022 and 2023.

Other rivers and streams in the county peaked last week and quickly receded.

The flood of June 2012 set the record on the river, at 16.62 feet.

Warnings from the NWS continued throughout the week, mostly for minor flooding along the river. "Caution is urged when walking near riverbanks," the weather service stated. "Expect high and swift water on the St. Louis River as it flows through Jay Cooke State Park."

Hope Howell and Neil Leete drove to Jay Cooke from Aurora on Sunday to see the high water. The couple had been to the park earlier this month and marveled at the difference.

"We came out a couple weeks back and walked down that way [downstream from the bridge] and we could get out to the rocks and stuff, and now it's all just covered," Howell said. "It's crazy to see the difference. It's incredible how powerful it is."

While more rain has fallen north of the region, Halverson said most of it will drain into the Duluth area basin and not the St. Louis River.

The rain forecast for the Cloquet area showed a drier stretch of weather this week, with some showers expected this weekend.

Across the county, annual rainfall amounts are 2-3 inches above the seasonal average.

Duluth meteorologist Dave Anderson said the wet weather pattern may be changing in July. "The National Weather Service pronounced El Niño officially dead," he said. "Evidence of that is the almost persistent rain we've been getting as the jet stream shifts position. La Niña will take over in the late stages of summer to keep us fairly wet but cooler.

"Instead of huge downpours, nature will be a little more stingy and we'll only get what's normal for the month."