High winds and waves have caused damage and flooding along the Lake Superior shoreline this week with the greatest impacts seen in the Twin Ports. Joe Moore, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Duluth, said they received a report from the freighter Algowood of wind gusts as high as 86 mph on Lake Superior about three miles east of Castle Danger on Wednesday.
"We had numerous gusts over 50 miles an hour recorded in the Twin Ports area," said Moore.
The wind sent waves crashing into Duluth’s Canal Park, flooding the waterfront and businesses. Police temporarily closed a portion of the business district Wednesday. The area had already seen $10 million in damage to the lakefront from a storm last fall. Across the border Thursday, public works crews in Superior were cleaning up tree damage and debris from 63 sites across the city. In northern Wisconsin, the wind and waves damaged boat ramps and caused local flooding. Ashland County temporarily closed some roads due to high water.
In Bayfield, the wind and waves damaged ramps for the Madeline Island Ferry, said marine operations manager Mike Radtke. Crews were working on repairs Thursday.
"The combination of high water on these increasingly more frequent wind events are taking a toll," he said. "It’s a challenge for us, and, of course, Duluth and Superior and all around the lake."
Radtke said they’re facing long-term costs of raising and improving ramps due to high water levels.
"We’ve had three gales in three weeks — three northeast gales in three weeks," he said. "That’s pretty significant, especially in October. We’re not even into November yet so we’re expecting we’re going to have more yet this season."
Local leaders say the wind and waves didn’t cause as much damage as last October’s storm that shut down U.S. Highway 2 near Ashland, as well as damaged roads and docks along the lakeshore. But, officials are concerned about the impact of more storms, including Scott Kluver, Washburn city administrator. The city of roughly 2,000 is getting ready to repair a roughly $2 million project to the city’s coal dock, which was damaged in last year’s storm.
"If that erosion continues and we have further storms, those sides of the wall may be damaged and lose their integrity and so the entire sheeting around the dock could collapse," said Kluver. "It’s important for us to get this project done as soon as possible so that we have the entire dock structurally sound and it can be protected from further events like that."
The city received around $1.3 million from the state to help fund repairs, but it still had to borrow roughly $400,000 to pay for the project.