Lift Bridge stuck up for two hours
The fried chicken Gene Spicer was delivering in his taxi to a Park Point resident was getting cold, but there was nothing he could do about it. Spicer was one of hundreds of cars stuck in line, with Canal Park in gridlock, when the Aerial Lift Br...
The fried chicken Gene Spicer was delivering in his taxi to a Park Point resident was getting cold, but there was nothing he could do about it.
Spicer was one of hundreds of cars stuck in line, with Canal Park in gridlock, when the Aerial Lift Bridge stuck up just after 5 p.m., possibly from a lightning strike.
"I guess that's what microwaves are for," Spicer said. "So here we sit and wait."
Heavy thunderstorms were passing through Duluth as the bridge lifted to let the Great Lakes freighter Joseph Block pass under. But the bridge didn't come back down. So people in their cars and on bikes waited. And waited. For about two hours.
Jerry Conn of Bloomington was the last vehicle not to make it across from the Canal Park side.
"I should have gone through the yellow light and I would have made it," said Conn, who was within site, but completely out of reach, of the South Pier Inn where he was staying. "I can see my hotel but I can't get across to it. I've already been here about two hours. Nobody seems to know anything about when it might be fixed."
Bridge crews at first manually lowered the bridge inch-by-inch but then, at 7:20 p.m., fixed the electrical problem and had the bridge operating again. The Duluth Entry to the harbor was closed briefly by the Coast Guard when the bridge was too low for freighters to pass under.
The problem apparently was caused by a nearby lightning strike.
"A lightning strike took out traffic lights" near the bridge, said Ryan Beamer, Aerial Lift Bridge supervisor. Beamer doesn't think the bridge took a direct lightning hit. "The lightning struck someplace else.''
The bridge, as most Northlanders well know, is the only land route on and off Park Point, and tourists and residents alike were stranded on both sides.
"Living the dream on Park Point, or not,'' said Pete Clure, a beer distributor salesman who was second in line trying to get home to his Park Point house. "I've lived out there 15 years, and we run into problems. It's a great place to live, but it can be a headache. I've got a dog waiting for me to come home.''
Unfortunately, Clure had no beverages in his well-marked beer truck and was unable to capitalize on offers to buy his product.
"And I'm stuck with a van with no beer in it,'' Clure joked.
After 90 minutes of waiting, Clure locked the van and headed into Grandma's restaurant, where a bit of a party sprouted as people waited for the bridge to move.
"It's not going anywhere so maybe I can go watch the TV and see if they know anything," Clure said.
He left the van on Lake Avenue and went inside.