Memorial Day storm batters Northland

Utility companies working to restore electricity; National Weather Service unsure, yet, whether a tornado touched down

Storm clouds over Hibbing on Monday.
Contributed / James Liapis

DULUTH — A strong spring storm whipped across Northeastern Minnesota on Monday, damaging homes and causing power outages that utility companies predicted could take multiple days to restore.

A fallen power line due to a strong storm
A strong thunderstorm on Monday took down this power line in the Cohasset area.
Contributed / Lake Country Power

As of Tuesday afternoon, at least 10,000 Minnesotans in the Duluth area were still without power, according to maps published by utility companies serving the region. Most of those outages were outside of Duluth city limits. Employees at those utilities have been working long hours — 16- and 20-hour shifts, in some cases — since the holiday to restore electricity, according to their respective spokespersons, and have already done so for several thousand customers.

A low-pressure system that pushed in from western North Dakota pulled up moisture from the south, causing estimated 60-80 mph winds from Cass County into northern St. Louis and Pine counties, dumping as much as 2.5 inches of rain in northern parts of the region, according to Patrick Ayd, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Duluth.

Cass, Crow Wing and parts of Itasca and Pine counties were hit the hardest. The storm more or less petered out by the time it reached the Twin Ports, Ayd said.

Eagle Bend.jpg
Minnesota Power employees work to restore electricity to customers in Eagle Bend, Minn.
Contributed / Minnesota Power

Deer River, about 90 miles west of Duluth on U.S. Highway 2 in Itasca County, endured significant damage. There, buildings were uprooted or flattened, trees toppled, and debris strewn across roadways, according to several reports on social media. Photos taken farther afield showed substantial damage to homes in Forada , a lakeside town south of Alexandria.


A tree and power line knocked down from a storm
A strong thunderstorm Monday caused trees to take down power lines in the Cohasset area and at least 13 broken poles were reported as of Tuesday, according to Lake Country Power.
Contributed / Lake Country Power

Weather service staff issued tornado warnings on Monday night for parts of Cass, Crow Wing, Itasca and St. Louis counties.

A warning, though, just means the ingredients for a tornado are present. National Weather Service staff are studying debris and damage on Tuesday to confirm whether one actually touched down.

The storm itself is a little unusual for this time of year, according to Ayd.

"Although we're getting into the beginning of severe weather season," he said. "So nothing abnormal other than ... a little bit stronger event for us this early in the season."

This story was updated at 5:12 p.m. May 31 with updated power outage numbers and more details from utility companies. It was originally posted at 12:34 p.m. May 31.

Joe Bowen is an award-winning reporter at the Duluth News Tribune. He covers schools and education across the Northland.

You can reach him at:
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