50 Year Anniversary of 1972 Duluth Flood
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In the early morning hours on August 20, 1972, a severe thunderstorm moved across the region. The storm hit Duluth between 3:00 – 4:30 a.m. creating havoc throughout the entire city. Reports of up to 3 inches of rain fell during a 24-hour period, setting a record at that time for the most rainfall received.
Many streets in Duluth were flooded and washed out. There was a massive amount of debris including furniture, bricks, rocks, mud, and telephone poles that ended up at the bottom of the hill.
Then Mayor, Ben Boo estimated the damages to be in the millions of dollars. Once the damage report was released, the official total was $12 million.
Sixth Avenue East took the brunt of the flood damage, with the water looking like a river and spraying debris to all streets that crossed it. The damage made for a long clean-up.
“We’re talking months and people should be aware of that. We don’t want to do any patch work,” Mayor Boo said at the time. “To be repaired from the bottom and we should be prepared for that delay.”
President Richard Nixon declared the area a federal disaster and plans were set for a disaster relief office to move to the arena. The National Guard was called in to assist with the clean-up.
One member of the National Guard would go on to say, “The National Guard primarily becomes involved because of a disaster such as this occurs. The National Guard has to assume and assist in the local community in the cleanup of the damage from flood and heavy rain we have here.”
In the west end of Duluth, thousands of tons of sand that was being used for Piedmont Ave. washed down 20th Avenue West and on to Superior Street, closing the busy street to traffic.
The severe weather event of August 20, 1972 would remain Duluth’s worst flash flood until the flooding in June, 2012.