DULUTH, Minn. (AP) — Residents evacuated their homes and animals escaped from their pens at a zoo as floods fed by a steady torrential downpour struck a city in northeastern Minnesota, officials said Wednesday.
Police officers helped track down a polar bear that got out of its enclosure overnight at the Lake Superior Zoo in Duluth.
“Even though it’s a large white object, it’s pretty nerve racking,” police spokesman Jim Hansen said of the chase for Berlin, the female polar bear. Zoo officials said she was darted by the zoo’s vet and placed in quarantine.
Several sheep, goats and a donkey were killed by the flooding, said Susan Wolniakowski, director of guest services.
“Sadly the zoo experienced the loss of several animals, among them many of the barnyard residents,” the zoo said in a statement.
Peter Pruett, the zoo’s director of Animal Management, said the “entire staff is devastated.”
Wolniakowski said no animals left the zoo grounds and all have been secured.
“I think it’s probably been the worst flooding we’ve ever had at the zoo,” Wolniakowski said. A train depot was completely underwater, she said.
Up to 8 inches of rain fell on the area overnight and the soaking continued Wednesday.
Elsewhere in Duluth, Interstate 35 and downtown tunnels were closed and police and the Carlton County Sheriff’s Department recommended emergency travel only, warning that numerous sinkholes and washouts were making driving dangerous.
“It’s a mess. There are too many intersections to even list that are closed,” Hansen said.
Authorities asked residents of the Fond du Lac neighborhood in Duluth to leave their homes because of concerns about the rising level of the St. Louis River. Hansen said about a dozen homes were evacuated. Police have received about 100 calls for assistance since early Wednesday, he said.
The University of Minnesota Duluth campus closed Wednesday because of the floods.