National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce



In the week leading up to the flooding rains of June 19th-20th, parts of northeast Minnesota had received 2-4 inches of rain as numerous storm systems moved across the area. This helped to saturate the soil which primed the Duluth area for runoff in the extreme rain event that followed. On Tuesday, June 19th, 2012, a cold front that had move through the previous day began to return north as a warm front, before becoming stationary just south of Duluth. This front helped provide continuous lift for thunderstorms that developed over east-central Minnesota and tracked northeast into the Duluth area, the North Shore of Lake Superior and into northwestern Wisconsin. The official rainfall total in Duluth on the 19th was 4.14 inches. The thunderstorms finally ended when a strong cold front moved through Wednesday afternoon, June 20th, but not before dumping another 3.11” at the airport. The official Duluth total rainfall for the event was 7.25”. Duluth International Airport broke several rainfall records during this event. Locally high amounts in the 8-10 inch range were reported throughout Duluth neighborhoods and along the North Shore of Lake Superior.

A swath of impressive rainfall amounts ranging from 5-10 inches fell over much of the NWS Duluth area of responsibility during the event. Numerous roads were washed out from the deluge of rain from Carlton County through the Duluth metro area and into Douglas and Bayfield counties in Wisconsin. A state of emergency was declared in Duluth, Hermantown, Cloquet, Barnum and Moose Lake in Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin. The steep terrain, and numerous creeks and rivers, played a significant role in the devastating damage and flooding that occurred in the Duluth community. The Fond Du Lac and West Spirit Mountain neighborhoods of Duluth and Thomson Township in Carlton County were evacuated. A raging Kingsbury Creek flooded the Lake Superior Zoo, drowning over a dozen animals. Two seals were swept from their enclosures, but were returned safely after being found on a local street. The polar bear escaped its exhibit, but was safely returned after being tranquilized by a dart. The Chester Creek Dam on the Chester Creek that runs through the heart of Duluth failed during the event. An 8-year-old boy was swept into a culvert while playing in the flood waters in Proctor. He was swept through the culvert for 6 or 7 blocks, but besides some scrapes, was unharmed. Due to the heavy rains and flooding causing water to cover many roadways and even wash out some roads, there were numerous significant road closures across northern Minnesota. 

See our Story Map for a more in-depth look at this event.

Rainfall totals for June 19-20, 2012.
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N. 8th Avenue East below Skyline Parkway in Duluth.
(Duluth News Tribune photo)
A vehicle that fell into a sinkhole along Skyline Parkway between N. 8th St. and N. 9th St. in Duluth.
(Bob King/Duluth News Tribune photo)
A vehicle that drove into a washed out section of Midway Road in Hermantown. 
(Duluth News Tribune photo)
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