Everything’s bigger in Paul Bunyan country. Including the storm that swept one 6,000-pound blue ox off his feet Thursday morning.
Heavy rains and winds that gusted over 50 miles per hour raked through central Minnesota and the metro. Up North in Brainerd, one mighty gust of wind slammed into the 60-year-old Babe the Blue Ox statue that stands watch over Paul Bunyan Land and sent it tumbling across the parking lot.
“It was kind of heartbreaking to see him like that,” said Lois Moon, co-owner of the Brainerd amusement park, which was battered by straight-line winds that felled trees, ruffled a merry-go-round and shifted a few houses in the park’s historic village off their foundations.
“It was probably the first time he’s ever laid down.”
The park was able to open on schedule Thursday while work crews tackled the Code Blue in the parking lot.
“Babe is going to be just fine,” Moon said. “We very carefully set him back on his feet.”
Photos on the park’s Facebook page show a rumpled Babe — one horn askew and a hole in his flank from where he’d bounced across rocks and sign posts — being hoisted back on his hoofs again. The fiberglass statue, 18 feet tall and 24 feet wide, was impaled by a sign in the parking lot that left a hole in its side, said Adam Rademacher, son of the owner of the famed Minnesota attraction.
In folklore, it was a storm that brought Babe and Paul Bunyan together. The legendary lumberjack fished the baby ox out of a Minnesota snowdrift, blue with cold.
Thursday’s storm may have temporarily blown them apart — the park’s iconic talking Bunyan statue was safely behind closed doors when the wind kicked up — but a fork lift, a front end loader and “a little surgery” soon put Babe back where he belonged, Rademacher said.
Minnesota has weathered its share of storms this summer. The past several months have seen tornadoes, flash floods, massive power outages, downed trees, baseball-sized hail, and now ox tipping.
There were no reported injuries across central Minnesota from Thursday’s storm, although there were reports of felled trees in Nisswa and McLeod County and winds blew a semitrailer off Hwy. 15 just south of Hutchinson, the National Weather Service reported.
The storm caused scattered flooding around the state, delayed flights at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and knocked out power to about 5,000 people in the metro area and points west.
Staff Writers Tim Harlow and Paul Walsh contributed to this report.