Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Trip to Grand Marais (part 3)

A new "river" formed from the flash flood aftermath of the storm
We woke up the next morning around 7:30 and went into Grand Marais one last time to run out to the lighthouse. As we were driving into town we noticed the ponds of water that had formed from the storm on the side of the road, but we were somehow still oblivious to the day we were about to have.

We parked in the pharmacy lot, located on a slight uphill and got out to start our run. Just as we started Mark slipped on the curb and fell onto the street twisting his ankle. He stumbled to his feet and said "I'm done" and that was that. We got back into the car and drove over to the gas station in hopes of finding an ace bandage to wrap his ankle in for the long car ride home. Unfortunately we struck out and since it was before 8 am none of the stores were open.
Mark's swollen ankle
While I was in the gas station, I overheard that Duluth, the big city we needed to drive through to get home, had been hit extremely hard by the storm, and many of the roads were closed or washed out. When I got back into the car I relayed this message to Mark and we decided that he would drop me off about 3 miles from the lodge and he would go get some information about the road conditions.

As I arrived back to the lodge Mark informed me that there was no internet, cell phone reception, or land line phones working. So we headed over to the Cascade Restaurant and Pub for breakfast and contemplated what to do. We decided to drive as far as we could and hope that by the time we reached Duluth the roads would be open.

When we were planning our trip we scheduled a pit stop at the Rustic Inn to purchase a pie. We were informed it was the place to go if you wanted pie and we did for both ourselves and Mark's dad. The Rustic Inn was in a town called Two Harbors and was between Grand Marais and Duluth so we assumed it would give us a good idea of how bad the storm aftermath really was.

The drive to Two Harbors went rather smootly and our optimism kicked in.... That is until we went inside to buy our apple pie. The waitress informed us that the night before, when she was driving out of Two Harbors to get home the tunnel at the edge of town was filled with three feet of water and she was forced to stay with a family friend. Despite this, we went on our way.

Soon after the road conditions worsened with the shoulders of roads completely taken out, but against my better judgement we continued on our way.
Sight as we entered Duluth

Water on the roads we had to drive through
The minute we arrived in Duluth we understood the severity of the situation. By this time a state of emergency had been declared and the highway we needed to take was closed. There were no detours that we could find, something we found strange. Luckily, as soon as we hit Duluth we finally had cell phone service and called Mark's dad. Although he wasn't much help in terms of knowing how to get around Duluth, he was relieved to hear from us and gave us the number of a friend in Duluth in case we needed a place to stay.

We drove through downtown trying to find a detour and all we saw was washed out roads, all the businesses closed, and water pouring down from the hilly streets. Since we had cell service again we looked at google maps to help guide us around back ways and streets. For four hours we used the phone to take us through back streets trying to get out of Duluth, and every time we felt like we were getting somewhere we would reach a point with too much water on the road, if there was a road at all. At least that explained why there were no detours to be seen.
Streets of downtown Duluth

One of the back roads completely washed out

A sight we had never seen before
It was a nightmare, and the damage was devastating. But somehow, through all of our trial and error we lucked out and found a county road that wasn't flooded and still intact. Even though it took us a little out of our way we were happy to be out of Duluth.

A ways down the road we found a way onto the highway we needed and we were ecstatic. Thinking we were in the clear we stopped into a town off the highway for gas and to get something to eat. As we went to get back on the highway we were immediately detoured off it and the process started all over again. It didn't take four hours this time, but boy did getting home become quite the adventure.

We finally got back to our apartment around 8 pm. What was suppose to be a four and a half hour trip home had turned into nine. But none of that mattered, we were just thankful to be back at our apartment after a long day on the road. And our one long day was nothing compared to the long days ahead for the city of Duluth and the surrounding areas.

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