Hell And High Water: As Record SW Wildfires Rage, Duluth Is Deluged

While Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Texas are dealing with wildfires today, communities in Minnesota are experiencing dramatic flooding caused by the torrential rain that occurred last night and early this morning.

One specific community in Minnesota that is facing the realities of extreme weather induced by climate change today is the Lake Superior Zoo in Duluth.

Minnesota Public Radio reported that at 3:30am someone noticed a seal on Grand Avenue and reported it prompting zoo officials to realize that the flash floods that were causing residents to flee their homes was also causing damage to the zoo. Berlin, the female polar bear, was also able to get out of her holding pen, along with more animals including the seals.

Susan Wolniakowski was on MPR and explained that because the Kingsburry Creek runs through the zoo grounds almost two-thirds of the zoo experienced intense flooding.

“It’s been a pretty tough night and a pretty tough morning here, to be honest with you. We’ve had major flooding from the Kingsbury Creek that runs through our zoo grounds.

It has encompassed several of our exhibits, including our Polar Shores area. We did have two seals escape this morning, Vivienne and Feisty. They were relatively easily corralled and they are secure and they are safe and they are in their holding (area) again.

mprnews:  This seal is one of two that escaped from the Lake Superior Zoo in Duluth during last night’s floods. It was photographed on Grand Avenue. Zoo officials say the seals were returned safely. (Photo courtesy of Kelli Latuska) See more photos from the flooding in NE Minnesota.

This seal is one of two that escaped from the Lake Superior Zoo in Duluth during last night’s floods. It was photographed on Grand Avenue. Zoo officials say the seals were returned safely. (Photo courtesy of Kelli Latuska, via mprnews)

I know for a while there were rumors that the polar bear was out and wandering Duluth. That was not the case. Berlin did get out of her exhibit. She did not get very far before the zookeepers found her and she was able to be tranquilized and she is also safe and secure and in her holding area.”

Holly Henry, the zoo’s marketing director, told that 11 animals have been confirmed dead. Most of the barnyard animals were the animals that died explained Holly.

Last year residents throughout the U.S. experienced flooding that engulfed houses and severely damaged roads and bridges – a very weak aspect of the U.S. already.

PBS even made the link between the extreme weather events in 2011 and global warming. However, this spring residents in Virginia witnessed their state lawmakers commission a study to determine the impacts of climate change on their shores, only to see that the House of Delegates omitted words like “climate change” and “sea level rise” from the study.

Extreme weather is affecting nearly every region of the U.S. again this summer. The most destructive wildfire in Colorado history have already destroyed 55,000 acres. The wildfires in the west are being fueled by climate change.

As for the stunning deluge in Minnesota, Dr. Kevin Trenberth, former head of the Climate Analysis Section of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, explained here in 2010: “There is a systematic influence on all of these weather events now-a-days because of the fact that there is this extra water vapor lurking around in the atmosphere than there used to be say 30 years ago. It’s about a 4% extra amount, it invigorates the storms, it provides plenty of moisture for these storms.”  He told the NY Times, “It’s not the right question to ask if this storm or that storm is due to global warming, or is it natural variability. Nowadays, there’s always an element of both.”

— Matt Kaspar


11 Responses to Hell And High Water: As Record SW Wildfires Rage, Duluth Is Deluged

  1. M Tucker says:

    “Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.” Henry David Theroux

    Those were the days…now we must fight with industry and many of our own politicians to ensure the air is breathable, the drink is not contaminated, the fruit is not toxic, and the consequences of resigning ourselves to the influences of each season’s weather are much more dangerous. Happy summer!

  2. D. R. Tucker says:

    Bush administration whistleblower, Rick Piltz, now Founder of Climate Science Watch, joins D.R. Tucker and Betsy Rosenberg talk about Rio+20, the disconnecting of dots on wildfires, and how the fossil fuel funded disinformation campaign is costing on the climate front. What individuals can do to reduce their energy footprint is the topic for our second half. John Rogers is with the Union of Concerned Scientists and co-author of a new book, Cooler, Smarter Planet. He tells us what we can do to “sweat the smart stuff”!

  3. BillD says:

    Interesting. We’ve still only had a tenth of an inch of rain since the first week of May with recent highs in the mid-90’s (oF). With only a 30% chance of rain anytime in the next 10 days, farm crops in Indiana are at risk. It would be ironic if we ended the drought with a flash flood.

  4. Lollipop says:

    As an Indiana gardener, I’d take flash flood over this drought. My poor garden is parched even with watering. The corn is still looking good, but the soy is a bit droopy.

  5. otter17 says:

    That seal is wondering “where in the heck am I?”.

  6. David F. says:

    It’s been quite dry in Ohio too. We had a little rain earlier this week, but it wasn’t enough with the hot temperatures. Hard to believe just last year was the wettest on record. But that’s climate change for you. We’re going to have to get used to these types of extremes.

  7. Lou Grinzo says:

    After catching up on the environmental news, most days I have to agree with the seal…

  8. Joan Savage says:
    Has a list of forests impacted by pine bark beetle and thus more vulnerable to fire, in states of Colorado, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming.

    For updates on wildfires, type of fuel and causes:

  9. Please stop repeating the timber industry propaganda meme that beetle outbreaks lead inevitably to increased fire risks.

    No evidence exists for this bald assertion. See:

  10. Chris Winter says:

    Thanks for the link. That’s a very good thread. But I wonder whether other areas will follow a similar pattern.

  11. otter17 says:

    True that. Times are a changing, but some people stubbornly want business as usual.