Construction crews “surprised” by flash flood debris spillage

Flash flooding caused erosion at a downtown Duluth construction site. Crews are spending...
Flash flooding caused erosion at a downtown Duluth construction site. Crews are spending Tuesday morning cleaning up.(Northern News Now)
Published: Sep. 12, 2023 at 7:57 PM CDT
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DULUTH, MN. (Northern News Now) - Construction crews spent Tuesday cleaning up a major intersection in downtown after flash floods swept rocks and mud into Superior Street.

The city of Duluth closed Superior Street at 8 a.m. Tuesday and reopened the road at 2:30 p.m. after spillage from the construction zone clogged Superior Street.

RELATED: UPDATE: Superior Street reopens after flash flood caused significant erosion

“The fact that it happened in a very small area took us by surprise,” Duluth Street Maintenance Operations Coordinator Geoff Vukelich said.

Localized areas saw more than four inches of rain Monday night, causing the washed-out construction site in downtown.

“As water comes in there, it washes out all that material, so we have to take that material out and then a lot of times, have to backfill it back on top of that,” Vukelich said.

The First Avenue East construction site was one area hit hard with rain, spilling rocks and debris and closing Superior Street. City officials said 1,000 cubic yards of construction material was washed onto the roadway.

“Right now, our bigger concern is getting the mess cleaned up and just making sure that everything’s safe and addressing any problems or concerns that come with that,” Vukelich said.

Vukelich said each open construction site is prepared to deal with rain but not flash flood levels.

“When we get these really short windows of high volumes of water, there’s not much planning that can be done,” Vukelich said. “It’s that point you just move into a reactionary-type state.”

Vukelich said each clean up and rain situation is a learning opportunity.

“As our climate changes here, we’re going to have to realize that these may become more common,” Vukelich said.

Duluth street crews also focused on gravel roads in Duluth, working with sweepers to clear those areas.

Vukelich said there will be a delay to the First Avenue East construction project, but is unsure how long the delay will be.

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