Storms leave trail of damage in northern Minnesota

Severe thunderstorms roared through northern Minnesota and Wisconsin early Thursday, downing trees and power lines across the region. As of 10 a.m., more than 70,000 customers were without power. The Duluth Fire Department advised no travel in th...

Severe thunderstorms roared through northern Minnesota and Wisconsin early Thursday, downing trees and power lines across the region.

As of 10 a.m., more than 70,000 customers were without power. The Duluth Fire Department advised no travel in the city of Duluth until later in the day because of downed trees and power lines.

"There are multiple lines down ... and many streets remain blocked. Please refrain from traveling until later in the morning if at all possible," the Duluth Fire Department reported as of just before 5 a.m.

Other communities were reporting downed and low-hanging power lines that could be a danger to drivers and passersby.

"Property owners are advised to not be cutting trees on roadways or on private property until power lines are secured by Minnesota Power. We have several reports of downed lines intertwined with downed trees," the fire department reported.


The St. Louis County Sheriff's Office also advised no unnecessary travel in the county.

"If travel is needed, stay away from down power lines, be patient, allow yourself extra time to get to your destination, and drive in a cautious manner due the debris and workers trying to clear the area roadways. Keep in mind that with the power outages, traffic control devices may not be operating. Please treat all intersections as a four way stop to guarantee the safety of others."

"Holy-moly," gasped Rachel Barbot, surveying tree damage at her Duluth home Thursday morning. "A lot less privacy from the neighbors now."

She had just returned from an overnight shift at Essentia Health-St. Mary's Medical Center, where she works on the obstetrics floor.

"It was busy," Barbot said. "When the pressure changed with the storm, a lot of women went into labor."

Electricity is out across much of the eastern half of the city, with most businesses in those areas unable to open as of 8 a.m. A number of power lines were down on the ground under the weight of uprooted or snapped-off trees, and officials are warning people to stay away from any lines.

Minnesota Power reported about 39,500 customers without power from 600 individual outages as of 10 a.m., in Duluth and across the region. Lake Country Power reported about 24,000 customers without power as of 10 a.m., from 350 outages.

Xcel Energy reported about 9,000 customers without power in its service area in Northwestern Wisconsin as of 10 a.m.


The outages were affecting the Duluth antenna farm, knocking most if not all Duluth TV and radio station off the air.

Power also is out at the city’s main Lakewood water pumping station, which means no new water is being pumped into the city’s massive reservoir and water tower system.

Duluth city officials are asking all residents to conserve water as much as possible.

Chuck Richards said the storm woke his family up and they were closing windows in their downstairs when they heard a big crash. A giant black walnut tree had uprooted and toppled onto, or more like into, their home.

“It went through the roof about two feet from where I sleep,’’ Richards said.

The Ely Police Department reported that power was out in most of the area, and city crews were heading out to clean downed trees and debris.

Weather spotters reported winds of up to 70 mph at the Moondance Jam music festival near Walker as storms moved through earlier this morning, the Weather Service reported. Downed trees were reported in the Big Falls area of Koochiching County as storms moved through just before 1 a.m.

Trees were reported down across the Brainerd region. A 72 mph wind gust was reported near Lake Winnibigoshish just before 2 a.m.


To the west, Beltrami County Emergency Management reported dozens of trees down and widespread power outages in the Bemidji area

The storm hit the Bemidji area about 1 a.m. Thursday. During the storm, Meteorologist Technician Bill Barrett of the National Weather Service in Grand Forks, N.D., said wind gust measurements ranged from 60 miles per hour at the Bemidji Regional Airport to 80 miles per hour at the Bemidji Department of Natural Resources office.

“I’ve been here for 14 years, I would have to pen this year, right now, as above average,” Barrett said regarding this summer’s storm activity. “The last two years were a little below average, where this year is more. It’s not the absolute max, but this is trending higher than what we expected.”

Bemidji Regional Airport also felt the effects of storm damage Thursday. Tracie Walter, Bemidji Aviation vice president, said three single engine aircraft at the airport sustained damage.

“It takes a large storm to do this kind of damage,” Walter said.

The storm hit the region just as one of the summer’s biggest events started. Wednesday night was the opening night for the Moondance Jam festival near Walker, Minn.

Bernie Schumacher, a Moondance employee, said that there is no power and multiple trees down. No injuries have been reported.

“Everyone is wet and awnings on campers are trashed,” she said. “There’s a handful of trees down and were not sure what the status is on power, or when we will get it back.”

Despite the power outage and damage Schumacher said the show will go on.

“Like always, we make things work and figure things out,” she said. “The show must go on.”

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