Floodwaters inundate Minnesota towns while another storm transformed New Mexico village into a lake

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COOK, Minn. (AP) — Several small-town tourist meccas in northern Minnesota have been inundated by floodwaters after a deluge of rain earlier this week, while another powerful storm turned a New Mexico village into a lake.

In St. Louis County, Minnesota — the home of Duluth — people navigated flood-ridden streets with kayaks and other small boats, photos taken by KARE-TV showed.

Meanwhile, a storm in the 200-person village of Willard, New Mexico, on Wednesday unleashed a thick curtain of 6 to 8 inches of rain and lime-sized hail in the town outside of Albuquerque, as fire crews farther south in the mountain village of Ruidoso were still battling a pair of deadly wildfires. Some parts of New Mexico don’t see that much rainfall in an entire year, National Weather Service meteorologist Brian Guyer said.

The National Weather Service warned that more significant rain is possible in Minnesota over the next three days in areas with saturated ground and swollen rivers after receiving more torrential rain on Tuesday. Parts of St. Louis, Itasca and Lake counties recorded more than 7 inches of rain.

Dozens of roads were washed out across northern Minnesota after the storm, totally cutting off access to lakeside resorts and causing tens of millions of dollars’ worth of damage. Officials in St. Louis County declared a disaster after estimating the floods had caused at least $50 million in damage and prompted the closure of more than 40 roads there.

Duluth itself fared better thanks to the improvements it made in its flood defenses after the record floods of 2012. But other smaller towns like Cook and Biwabik were not as fortunate. Gov. Tim Walz plans to tour the damage there on Friday.

“It’s just sheer devastation,” said Ryan Horner, who runs the 85-year old Comet Theater in downtown Cook that is covered with at least three feet of water. Inside the theater, Horner told Minnesota Public Radio that the water has filled the basement and is now more than chest deep at the bottom of the auditorium.

Elsewhere near Lake Vermillion, the flooding cut off all the roads into Glenwood Lodge, meaning the only way into the fully booked resort is by boat right now.

“We’re stuck in here. We’re not going anywhere with a vehicle,” resort owner Billy Muelken said.

Willard, New Mexico, is feeling the effects of what happens when the state’s wildfire and monsoon seasons overlap.

“We went from catastrophic wildfires one day to catastrophic flooding the next,” said Guyer, of the National Weather Service.

Within minutes after commercial truck driver Mike Bischoff received an emergency alert that a storm was on the way, he was already stuck in it. The 54-year-old was driving his semi-truck on Highway 42 when the hail started to pour down and the flash floods surrounded him and the other drivers on the road.

Stuck in the storm, Bischoff said the hail poured down and a funnel cloud appeared in the sky.

“My semi weighs 80,000 pounds, and it was rocking,” Bischoff said.

Much of the Southwest has been exceedingly dry and hot in recent months. Those conditions, along with strong wind, whipped flames out of control, rapidly advancing the South Fork Fire into Ruidoso. Evacuations extended to hundreds of homes, businesses, a regional hospital and the Ruidoso Downs horse track.

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