Rescues underway for many hurt in Minn. storm
Rescue crews responded to multiple injuries after intense thunderstorms sent trees crashing onto campsites
By John Myers
Duluth News Tribune
DULUTH, Minn. — At least three sets of campers on different lakes in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness were injured early Tuesday when intense thunderstorms downed trees onto their campsites.
The most recent report was in Lake County, where the Sheriff’s Office told the News Tribune that rescue crews are on the way to a report of campers injured at a site between Inusla Lake and Hudson Lake.
No further details were available, but rescuers had requested a float plane to evacuate injured campers.
Farther west, at least two people camped on Loon Lake in the BWCAW were badly hurt early Tuesday when a tree fell on their campsite. Paramedics from Crane Lake were at the scene this afternoon, and a U.S. Forest Service float plane was en-route from Ely to ferry the victims out of the wilderness.
Dave Philips, St. Louis County undersheriff, told the News Tribune that a woman suffered “pretty significant injuries’’ and that a male victim remained trapped under a tree at the scene for some time. Two rescue boats also were dispatched to the site.
“The first call was for multiple victims, but we know there are at least two,’’ Phillips said.
Earlier Tuesday in a separate but nearby incident, two people camped on Lac La Croix were struck by a falling tree and injured. The victims were brought by boat to Crane Lake and taken to the Virginia hospital by ambulance after suffering “non-life threatening injuries.”
Phillips said winds were reported over 60-mph in a scenario eerily similar to July 4, 1999, when ferocious straight-line winds downed millions of trees across the BWCW and injured many campers, stranding some for several days.
“It really does remind me of that,’’ Phillips said, noting Forest Service aircraft are now patrolling the area to see if any additional victims need help at other campsites.
Sandy Skrien, acting supervisor for the Superior National Forest, said she has heard of no additional campers in peril and that all of her field crew were reported safe.
The National Weather Service in Duluth reported that winds destroyed several hangars and an aircraft at the Eveleth-Virginia airport when the storm blew through at about 1 a.m.
Dozens of trees were reported down early Tuesday across Highway 1 between Ely and Isabella as well as across the Gunflint Trail.
More than four inches of rain fell in Baudette overnight and over an inch in International Falls, likely spurring additional challenges along the already flooded border waters. Rainy Lake and Lake of the Woods had begun to drop until the latest deluge but now are expected to rise again.
The line of heavy thunderstorms developed in North Dakota and blew across northern Minnesota, hitting much of the Northland before dawn Tuesday. The National Weather Service relayed wind reports in excess of 70 mph in some areas.
Cooler, calmer weather is forecast for much of the week with highs in the 70s.
©2014 the Duluth News Tribune (Duluth, Minn.)