Buried but unbowed in Duluth

  • Article by: LARRY OAKES and BILL MCAULIFFE , Star Tribune staff writers
  • Updated: March 2, 2007 - 9:19 PM

The storm hit with particular fury near Lake Superior, whipping up huge drifts in one neighborhood.

DULUTH - If this week's blizzard had a ground zero, it may have been Duluth.

Winds off Lake Superior gusting to more than 60 miles per hour drove even plows from the city's streets and whipped 19.4 inches of snow into 15-foot drifts on Minnesota Point (also called Park Point), swallowing cars whole and temporarily sealing people in the homes that line the single street between the Duluth Harbor and the open lake.

The point, connected to the mainland by the Aerial Lift Bridge, remained officially closed to traffic while workers dug a trench down the street to form a traffic lane.

Citywide, emergency vehicles were being led by plows to answer calls for help. "The drifts reach up to the telephone wires," said Dick Gajewski, owner of Bayside Market, who said he was at work Friday only because he lives upstairs from the store.

He said he helped shovel out a neighbor, former Duluth Mayor Bob Beaudin, who was trapped inside his house by huge drifts.

Meanwhile, the southern part of Minnesota crawled out from under what in many places was the heaviest week's worth of snow since the 1991 Halloween blizzard.

The University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus, which closed entirely Thursday for the first time since 1991, reopened Friday, as did Interstate Hwys. 90 and 35. The National Guard, put on alert by Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Thursday, helped respond to two minor emergencies Friday.

In Elk River, the owner of a bowling alley said heavy snow was likely to blame for the collapse of a domed roof.

Fewer than 100 flights were canceled Friday at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. About 450 flights were canceled Thursday.

Operations are expected to return to normal today.

Blizzard warnings -- caused by high winds lifting already-fallen snow -- were back in effect overnight across southwestern Minnesota, although winds were expected to die down today.

Mail delivery canceled

In Duluth, schools, malls, the Aerial Lift Bridge and the airport were all closed, and the U.S. Postal Service canceled mail delivery in the city Friday for the first time since the Halloween blizzard. The Duluth News Tribune likewise canceled delivery.

Ryan Beamer, a supervising operator on the Aerial Bridge, which connects the 5-mile-long Minnesota Point neighborhood to the mainland, said that he clocked off-lake wind gusts of 72 mph at the bridge Thursday afternoon.

City crews attempting to clear Minnesota Avenue on Friday with a rotary plow struck an abandoned, buried car in the middle of traffic lanes and had to bring in a large tow truck to clear that car and others, Beamer said.

An 88-year-old woman was found Thursday evening nearly drifted over with snow after falling near a Canal Park parking lot and being unable to get up for about 45 minutes.

"She was lucky," Police Chief Gordon Ramsay said. "I'm not surprised she couldn't get up. The snow felt like a sandblaster coming at you."

Bob Troolin, manager of street and park maintenance for the city, said Minnesota Point is especially hard-hit by blizzards with off-lake winds, "because it becomes a windbreak." He said this is especially true when the lake's western end has large areas of ice cover, as it does now.

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