Duluth flood updates: Low, Charlie Parr, & Trampled by Turtles

Categories: Local Music
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Photo by Chelsea Morgan
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With the stark, grotesque, and unnerving images from Duluth's massive flood comes the worry about our upper Minnesota neighbors -- some of whom are musicians. As the devastation piled up Wednesday, Gimme Noise reached out to Low/Retribution Gospel Choir's Alan Sparhawk, Charlie Parr, and Trampled by Turtles' Dave Simonett to find out how they were faring in light of the biggest flood the area has seen in 40 years.

"It's really weird, man," Sparhawk says from his home in the Central Hillside neighborhood. "I always thought this town was kind of unfloodable. It's pretty steep hill down to the lake. It was pretty intense to put that much rain on the ground in that short of a time."


A rush of up to nine inches of water in the span of a few hours was enough to rip apart roads, cause sinkholes large enough to contain vehicles, rip houses from their foundations, and put a whole lot of property underwater. Governor Dayton issued an emergency executive order Wednesday declaring a state of emergency in the area.

"From what I've heard, the guys are a little wet but OK," says Simonett via text regarding his Duluth-based bandmates.

Sparhawk was driving back from a Retribution Gospel Choir show Tuesday at the Turf Club in St. Paul while the storm was raging.  "My wife was giving me updates the whole evening -- how hard it was raining," he says. "On our way home, we hit it. It started raining about an hour south of Duluth, and going pretty hard. It kept raining and raining and raining"

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Photo courtesy of Terri D Harings
He arrived home to clogged gutters that needed attention at 3 a.m., and a very wet basement -- which is his rehearsal space. A good portion of Wednesday was spent clearing out the carpets and gear in the space. "We're really lucky that we were on tour," he says. "If we hadn't been on tour, we would've lost a lot of priceless stuff, I think. Guitars and stuff like that, if it sits in water for hours, it's never the same."

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Photo courtesy of DaCoco
A check in with some of the area venues yielded positive news, as well. Both Bayfront Festival Park -- hosting Wilco on July 1 -- and the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center both escaped without much damage.

Still, the pictures tell a different story, and Sparhawk knows that things could've been much worse than "an inch or two" of standing water and a couple washed out roads. "I remember going to Grand Forks ten or 12 years ago when the Red River flooded, and helped them clean up," he says. "Man, nothing compares to that stuff. It can completely destroy your house. Someone should call Charlie Parr and check, because I think that part of town actually got more of a standing water problem."

So we did. "When I woke up this morning, our street was just a river," Parr says. "The water was up to the hubs in my truck. It was crazy. I've never seen it like that before."

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