Northern Minnesota residents were cleaning up Tuesday after severe storms knocked out power, toppled trees, blew off metal roofs and may have contributed to the death of a boater.
"It looks like a war zone in parts of town," said Steve Cordts of Bemidji, a waterfowl biologist with the Department of Natural Resources. "I saw six houses with trees on them. At Diamond Point Park in town, it looks like half the trees were uprooted." In some rural areas, "people had to chain-saw their way out of driveways," Cordts said.
High winds, including a report of an 80-mile-per-hour-wind gust, snapped and toppled hundreds of trees in the 32,000-acre Itasca State Park and damaged a couple of cabins, Kristi Coughlon said. Crews on Tuesday removed downed trees that blocked roads and were continuing to clean up the park, which remained open. But the DNR temporarily closed the 190-acre La Salle State Recreation Area while crews clean up a large blowdown area, Coughlon said.
Tom Neustrom, a fishing guide who lives in Grand Rapids, said he has never seen anything like Tuesday night's storms in the 33 years he's lived in the area.
The storm uprooted and sheared 100-year-old pine trees, blew boats about and damaged houses. The areas near Lake Winnie and north of Deer River were especially hard hit, he said.
"We just saw this massive black stuff over west ... it just swallowed us," Neustrom said. "It was like something out of 'The Wizard of Oz.'"
An angler on Swan Lake in Itasca County drowned when high winds and waves capsized his boat Monday night. Roy Jasper Flug, 49, of rural Goodland, and a companion tied their boat under the Hwy. 65 bridge on the lake as the storm came through. When the boat turned over, Flug's companion got out of the water and called for help but Flug was missing by the time emergency crews arrived. His body was found Tuesday morning in 8 1/2 feet of water.
In Grand Rapids, Police Chief Jim Denny said downed trees and power lines caused extensive damage in the area. "We've got trees that have fallen on houses, trees that have fallen on cars," Denny said. "We're trying to clear up as best as we can."
Also Tuesday, Department of Natural Resources officials announced that Jay Cooke State Park, pummeled in a severe storm last month, will remain closed indefinitely. Hwy. 210, which provides the only road access to the park, remains washed out, and the park's iconic swinging bridge and many trails also sustained severe damage.
Staff writers Mary Lynn Smith and Doug Smith contributed to this report. firstname.lastname@example.org • 612-673-4263