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High winds damage Two Harbors landmark Pierre the Voyageur

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The right arm and paddle of Pierre the Voyageur, a landmark along State Highway 61 in Two Harbors, broke off in high winds on Tuesday. Adelle Whitefoot / Lake County News-Chronicle2 / 2

Winds gusting in excess of 60 mph in the Northland on Tuesday downed trees and power lines, left thousands without power, made driving difficult — and damaged a Two Harbors landmark.

Pierre the Voyageur — the statue that has greeted residents and visitors to the North Shore for more than a half-century — lost his right arm and canoe paddle to a gust of wind sometime early Tuesday afternoon.

Staff at the Earthwood Inn, where Pierre has stood just off the Highway 61 Expressway since 2011 after being moved from his original location, were alerted about the fallen arm by a customer driving past.

Earthwood Inn owners Sandra Fritz and Eric Potts were out of town on Tuesday and heard about the incident from an employee. Potts will inspect the damage when he’s back in town next week, Fritz said.

The right arm and paddle of Pierre the Voyageur broke off in high winds Tuesday. Adelle Whitefoot / Lake County News-Chronicle

They don’t know yet how to repair it or what it’s going to take to repair the statue, but Fritz said they will fix it.

“We’ll definitely restore him, put him back together. We love Pierre, so we’ll get him all mended up and back to normal,” Fritz said.

Pierre the Voyageur was built in 1960 and originally stood in front of a museum and gift shop, near the Voyageur Motel along Highway 61 in town. The statue is made of railroad ties, rebar and concrete; its legs originally were parts of telephone poles sunk into the ground.

In 2011, after the lot was sold, Pierre was moved by crane and flatbed trailer to the Earthwood Inn.

Fritz said she’s not sure why the arm fell off Tuesday, considering the statue was refurbished when it was moved to its current location. Parts of the statue were rotting when they had it refurbished, but the arms weren’t refurbished as part of that project. Fritz suggested that the arms may have started rotting in recent years, and that could be why the wind was able to knock off the arm.

“We thought we had fixed him up pretty good, but what I would like to do is figure out how to put an arm sling on him once we get it fixed — I don’t know if we’ll be be able to figure it out — like he had a broken arm,” Fritz said.

Meanwhile, several thousand customers in the Northland remained without power on Tuesday night as utility crews worked to restore service knocked out by the wind and falling trees.

About 5,000 customers remained without power in the Minnesota Power, Lake Country Power and Xcel Energy service areas in the Northland as of 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, as crews worked to repair dozens of separate outages.

The National Weather Service reported a peak wind gust of 66 mph at the Grand Marais harbor on Tuesday afternoon, with 62 mph at the Silver Bay Marina, 59 mph at the Ashland airport and 58 mph at the Duluth airport.

Other peak gusts included 56 mph in International Falls, 55 mph in Proctor, 52 mph at Duluth's Sky Harbor Airport, 49 mph in Superior and Two Harbors, and 47 mph near Chisholm.

Storm warnings were issued through this morning for Lake Superior, where the westerly winds were expected to build waves in excess of 20 feet.

Westerly winds are expected to slowly diminish to 40 mph gusts today and 15 mph gusts by Thursday. Highs today and Thursday are forecast to reach the teens to mid-20s in the Northland, with subzero lows possible tonight and Thursday night.

The average high in Duluth at this time of year is about 31 degrees; the average low is 14.

Icy streets cause havoc in Duluth

A sudden drop in temperature early Tuesday — after Monday’s unseasonably warm weather — caused icy roads that led to a number of crashes in Duluth.

The temperature at the Duluth airport dropped from 48 at midnight to 20 at 7 a.m. Tuesday, the Weather Service reported.

Videos circulating on social media Tuesday showed a mounting pileup of vehicles on Lake Avenue between First and Second streets in downtown Duluth, with one car taking out a light pole as it slid down the hill. WDIO-TV estimated that at least 10 vehicles were involved.

Weather Service confirms two Monday tornadoes

The National Weather Service on Tuesday confirmed that two tornadoes touched down in Minnesota on Monday — the earliest tornadoes on record in the state.

One of the tornadoes touched down about 5 miles west of Zimmerman in Sherburne County at 5:39 p.m., and over the next 15 minutes traveled a path of about nine miles to the northeast toward Princeton. It damaged some structures and knocked down trees, and was rated an EF1 with estimated peak wind speeds of 107 mph.

The second tornado touched down in Clarks Grove in Freeborn County. It also was rated EF1, and caused major damage to some structures in the southern Minnesota town, including a grain elevator.

The previous earliest tornado on record in the state was one near Truman, in southern Minnesota, on March 18, 1968.

John Myers and Andrew Krueger of the News Tribune contributed to this report.

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