Ice storm knocks out power, damages parks in northeast Minn.by Bob Kelleher, Minnesota Public Radio
While the northwestern region of the state struggles with floodwaters rising on the ground, the northeastern part of the state is coping with a watery assault from above. Three days of freezing rain have coated the landscape with ice that's more than an inch thick in some places.
There were a thousand people were without power this morning, and shelters will be open on Lake Superior's North Shore again tonight for people still waiting for the power to come back.
Grand Marais, Minn. — Bob Nelson has seen plenty of ice before in Grand Marais, but not like this one.
"It's bad. We've lost a lot of trees," Nelson said. "There's people been without power up here a day, day and a half now. It's bad."
The most ice seems to have accumulated a little ways inland from Lake Superior, on and over the hills where temperatures were just a bit lower than closer to the lake. The weight of the ice is bending some small trees completely to the ground and Nelson said a friend who lives inland on Tom Lake ran into that.
"He said going down to get to his place is like going through an obstacle course," Nelson said. "All these trees are bent over on the road. And he just puts pedal to the metal and goes right through it, and man, trees and ice are just bouncing off his windshield."
Emergency shelters opened Tuesday at the Beaver Bay arena and at the Silver Bay Community Center. B.J. Kolstead is the Emergency Management Coordinator for Lake County, at the Red Cross shelter in Silver Bay. Kolstead said the ice was melting last night and early today.
"The trees outside my window still have three quarters of an inch of ice on them, and I've heard various descriptions like, 'it looks like a bomb went off. It looks like a war zone,'" Kolstead said. "It's quite stunning, actually, and as you go up the hill, vertically, to Finland and Isabella, it's even worse."
Kolstead said a couple of people spent the night at the Silver Bay shelter, while many others have stopped in for a meal or to pick up water. So far, there have been few reports of serious property damage or injuries, but Kolstead said the ice does create risk.
"People who live in areas where there are a lot of trees are encouraged not to be under the trees," Kolstead said. "If you walk the roads through wooded areas the branches are breaking and crashing and trees are coming down every few seconds around them."
The ice coating is an inch thick just inland from Lake Superior, from about Two Harbors up to Grand Marais. Kolstead said the heaviest ice appears to be in the Finland area. Finland is about 65 miles up the lakeshore from Duluth and another 10 inland. There's about two inches packed on everything.
"It hasn't melted in Finland at all," Kolstead said. "And we are now expecting of course, a snowstorm to come in on top of this."
The ice is taking out trees, branches and power lines. Crews are keeping main roads cleared with heavy equipment, but many streets and back roads are clogged.
Sarah Cron is with Cooperative Light and Power in Two Harbors.
"The biggest problem for us is the broken poles," Cron said. "We only have so much equipment that can get poles set in the ground, and so it's slow going. We're still looking, Finland and Isabella, a day or two without power."
It's the worse Cron has seen in eight years with the power cooperative. Crews are helping from the City of Two Harbors and from another electric co-op, and they're all busy. Cron said power has been coming back up in Beaver Bay, but it's slower going inland from Lake Superior.
"The big problem area is still Finland," Cron said. "Our substation went down. We had a bunch of broken poles. The ice was the worse in that area."
Oddly, it's a pretty scene, if you don't mind the hardship.
"It's really pretty. It's almost sad that it's so pretty," Cron said. "Up in Finland they had, I heard, two inches of ice, and some of the photos that I'm looking at right now are stunning. It's like looking at a snowstorm in the middle of winter. It's amazing."
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is also recommending against travel to three state parks along the North Shore due to the ice storm.
The department said that fallen trees are blocking roads in Tettegouche, Temperance River and George H. Crosby-Manitou state parks.
Further, ice-laden branches continue to snap off high above the ground, posing a hazard to guests. Smaller aspen, birch and alder trees have also broken off.
Phil Leversedge is manager of the three parks. He said the woods are full of the sounds of breaking branches and snapping trees.
The DNR asks that visitors avoid the parks until March 30.
Shelters will be open again tonight in Silver Bay and Beaver Bay. There's no additional ice in the forecast but there could about an inch of snow by tonight on top of the ice that's already in place.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)
- All Things Considered, 03/25/2009, 4:50 p.m.