Thousands of residents and businesses in the Brainerd area are still without power days after a Sunday storm blew through the area and toppled trees and power lines.
About 200 workers have been working 16-hour days removing trees and repairing power lines since the storm shut down power to 8,000 Minnesota Power customers. By Wednesday night, more than 3,500 customers were still without power and crews hoped to whittle that down by about half by Thursday. About 2,000 remaining customers likely won't have power restored until the weekend, company officials said.
Gov. Mark Dayton is scheduled to tour the area on Friday. It's unclear whether the storm damage will qualify for state or federal disaster aid.
Minnesota Power officials said the extent of damage was worse than they had thought. Winds reaching 70 miles per hour snapped more than 150 power poles, which will have to be replaced along with damaged transformers, the company said in a statement.
The work is time-consuming because in severely damaged areas like Pine Beach Peninsula, crews have to remove trees to access downed lines.
Company officials warned people to stay clear of downed power poles, lines and wires because some may have electricity going through them.
The storm cut a swath from Gull Lake to Lake Hubert, forcing the evacuation of more than 900 vacationers and shutting down some of the area's most popular resorts. Cragun's Resort is expected to be closed until next week; Madden's on Gull Lake is expected to reopen in two weeks.
The Pillsbury State Forest, just west of the hard-hit Brainerd lakes area, is closed "until further notice" because downed trees have made all forest roads and trails impassable, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said.