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Lawmakers pledge to do all they can to ease Duluth flooding

U.S. Rep Chip Cravaack (from left) Duluth mayor Don Ness, Sen. Al Franken, St. Louis County commissioner Steve O'Neil, Sen, Amy Klobuchar, and St. Louis County commissioner Frank Jewell address the media about flood damage at a large washout on West Skyline Parkway Friday in Duluth, Minn. after record rainfall caused flash flooding in the area earlier this week. Clint Austin | Forum Communications

DULUTH -- The Northland's congressional delegation toured flood-ravaged Duluth neighborhoods Friday and pledged to do all they can to obtain adequate federal assistance for the area.

Federal Emergency Management Administration officials will arrive in Minnesota on Monday to meet with state officials in St. Paul. They'll begin working in the Duluth area Tuesday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar said.

"I know Duluth will get through this; Duluth has a great spirit," she said during an afternoon news conference on West Skyline Parkway, feet from a huge washout that has closed the road and cut off several homeowners.

"You might break a few roads, but not the spirit," she said.

Klobuchar, Sen. Al Franken and Rep. Chip Cravaack met with officials from the city, St. Louis County, the Minnesota Department of Transportation and the Red Cross during their visit.

"We talked dollars with them so they have an idea what Duluth and all of St. Louis County is facing," city spokeswoman Amy Norris said. On Thursday, local and state officials released preliminary damage estimates totaling $95 million to $115 million for public structures and roads in Duluth, St. Louis County and the region's state highways alone. And those estimates are nowhere near complete, and do not take into account most damage in other counties or to private property. In addition to meeting local officials, the three were bused to several sites around the city to see damage caused by Wednesday's rainfall and flooding. Cravaack said he had followed the news on the flooding and seen photo and film of it, but "it looked worse" in person.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to people affected," he said.

Cravaack said recovery efforts should concentrate first on public safety and getting people back into their homes. After that efforts can move onto repairing other infrastructure.

"We're all here to help," he said. Klobuchar said the damage she saw was horrific.

"It felt like you were walking on the lunar surface," she said of walking some of the damaged and destroyed Duluth streets with their buckled pavement and sinkholes. "It was an incredible sight."

She said it was a tribute to Duluth and the surrounding areas that no one was killed in the floods. She, Franken and Cravaack all praised the efforts of local officials, public works and public safety workers.

"We will be supporting them and you," Franken said.