DULUTH, Minn. – Jeb, the black and brown dwarfed goat at Lake Superior Zoo, sought out Brad Jago every day for a little love, attention and a gentle scratch on the forehead where his horns once stood.
On Wednesday it was Jago seeking Jeb, as the groundskeeper and the rest of the zoo staff scrambled to find and recapture animals that escaped during torrential overnight flooding that forced the evacuation of some homes in a low-lying neighborhood in the port city of Duluth.
Zoo workers safely recovered two seals and a polar bear that had managed to escape their enclosures but Jeb and a dozen or so other animals from the zoo’s barnyard exhibit – including other goats, sheep and a miniature donkey – drowned.
“That was a tough loss,” said Jago, one of several employees who spent Wednesday afternoon grieving and regrouping after the exhausting search that began before dawn.
The storm dumped up to 10 inches of rain on the northeastern Minnesota city, which sits on a steep rocky hillside that leads down to Lake Superior.
There were no immediate reports of serious injuries, though an 8-year-old boy was swept about six blocks through a culvert in Duluth. The boy suffered some scrapes and bruises but was fine, St. Louis County Undersheriff Dave Phillips said, calling it a “miracle out of this whole disaster.”
Gov. Mark Dayton declared a state of emergency Wednesday and authorized the National Guard to help the city of 86,000 cope with extensive damage. There were multiple reports of streets having been washed out, and parts of the zoo remain submerged Wednesday hours after the rain stopped.
Several major highways leading into the city were closed because of the flooding and authorities encouraged residents to stay home due to the volume of standing and rushing floods.