Cleanup continues: Duluth to offer curbside brush pickup; county moves toward emergency declaration

In the wake of Thursday's windstorm that devastated parts of the Northland -- as well as other severe weather that hit the region on July 5 -- St. Louis County is planning a state of emergency declaration to clear the way for possible state and f...

Jesse Murray (left) works together with his father-in-law Larry Tureson, both of Duluth, to pull from a trailer a mass of tree limbs that were knocked down during Thursday's storm. Like many, they took advantage of the free Rice Lake city brush drop-off on Martin Road near Rice Lake Road on Saturday. Bob King /

In the wake of Thursday's windstorm that devastated parts of the Northland - as well as other severe weather that hit the region on July 5 - St. Louis County is planning a state of emergency declaration to clear the way for possible state and federal assistance.

"We're working with the city and our partners at the state to anticipate an emergency declaration that should be made on Tuesday. We're not sure if this event, in and of itself, will qualify," County Administrator Kevin Gray said at a Saturday news conference, explaining that such a declaration is based on damage to public infrastructure. "We're hopeful that that declaration, combined with our July 5 wind event, will provide us some federal and state funding avenues that aren't available to us now."

Last week's storms caused widespread damage to trees, power lines and buildings, with areas of particularly severe damage in Duluth, Rice Lake and surrounding areas, and in the Ely area. The July 5 storm downed trees and damaged homes as well, with the Island Lake area particularly hard-hit.

On Saturday, cleanup of downed trees and power line repairs in the wake of Thursday's storms continued throughout the Duluth area and elsewhere in the Northland, as thousands of residents in the region entered their third day without power.

As of 9:30 a.m. Sunday, Minnesota Power and Lake Country Power reported a combined total of about 19,200 customers still without power in their service areas in the Northland - down from 33,400 on Saturday morning, and down from more than 75,000 at the peak of the storm aftermath on Thursday.


Minnesota Power spokeswoman Kelley Eldien said Saturday that about one-third of the 130 utility poles broken by the storm had been replaced.

Eldien reminded residents to stay back from all power lines and assume that all lines are energized. Minnesota Power has brought in more reinforcements and, with 120 additional lineworkers in Duluth to help on Saturday, Eldien said the company hoped to have power restored to most Duluth customers by tonight. Crews are working 16-hour days, the utility reported.

However, Eldien said some customers in the hardest-hit areas - from the Woodland neighborhood and Lakewood up through Rice Lake toward Island Lake - may not have power restored until later in the week.

Lake Country Power also called in help from other utility companies - more than 100 lineworkers and other personnel - but said it will take until later this week before all customers have power restored.

Nearly two-thirds of the cooperative's 42,000 members were affected by the storm, from Sturgeon Lake to the Canadian border, and from the Duluth area west to Leech Lake.

"Everyone deserves a pat on the back," Todd Johnson, Lake Country Power's director of operations, said in a news release. "We appreciate members' patience. And crews have made amazing progress."

Curbside brush pickup in Duluth

The city of Duluth announced Saturday that in addition to the free brush drop-off location already open on Rice Lake Road, the city will begin offering curbside brush pickup on Monday. City officials said residents should lay out tree branches, trunks and brush on the boulevard or their front yard by 9 p.m. Sunday, without blocking sidewalks or putting the debris in the street. A contractor will be going street-by-street, starting with the Woodland neighborhood, to pick up the debris along the curbs beginning Monday morning.


Household items, yard waste or garbage shouldn't be placed with the debris on the curb.

Residents also still can drop off tree debris at the drop-off location on Rice Lake Road across from the Boulder Ridge apartment complex. The site is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, with the possibility of expanded hours beginning Monday.

Dozens of people were unloading an assortment of tree branches and trunks into a pile of debris taller than a car at the drop-off location on Saturday morning. The line of cars waiting to get into the site extended down the road, with visible piles of green leaves piled up in truck beds and pulled trailers.

Gordon Makowsky and Steve Carlson, neighbors in the Piedmont Heights neighborhood, were unloading their fourth load of tree debris. Between the two of them, they had seven pine and elm trees down on their garages. Makowsky estimated that they still had three more loads of brush and one load of cut-up tree trunks to bring to the site.

"He's been doing all the chainsaw work," Carlson said of his neighbor. "We're both retired so we've been doing it day in and day out."

They needed to get the trees off their garages so they could begin repairing the roofs - Makowsky has five holes in his garage roof caused by fallen trees and Carlson had two holes in his garage roof, they said.

Duluth Deputy Fire Chief Shawn Krizaj on Saturday asked that residents not burn storm debris in their yard; burning brush is illegal within the city limits, he said, and the city had been receiving complaints about smoke and illegal burning.

In Rice Lake, a steady stream of residents made use of the city's free brush drop-off location at the corner of Martin and Rice Lake roads; it's open from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. The city saw widespread devastation from the storms, with most homes and businesses still without power Saturday. With many Rice Lake residents using wells for water - and well pumps not operating because of the power outages - a free water fill-up station was available to residents at the city's public works garage on Martin Road.


Damage to parks

In Duluth, Mayor Emily Larson said Saturday that Hartley Park has been closed to the public because of downed and damaged trees. The Lester Park trails also are closed, but Lester Park's playground area remains open. Brighton Beach also had trees damaged by the storm.

Hartley Nature Center Executive Director Tom O'Rourke said they're in the process of assessing the damage at the park, but he said the park has lost a lot of trees and some of the trails aren't accessible.

The nature center remained without power Saturday; the park's yurt was destroyed by the storm.

Runa Yoga, which offered "Yoga in the Yurt" classes at Hartley, announced Saturday that it was canceling its yurt classes for the remainder of the summer. Michelle Cartier said she and co-owner Jessie Erickson viewed the yurt damage on Friday; trees had fallen on top of the yurt, shattering its domed roof, she said.

As a new business, they were sad and disappointed to lose their space, but the storm was something they couldn't have predicted, Cartier said. They'll now begin the process to find a permanent space while continuing to offer outreach classes. Cartier said they're grateful because the storm's wrath could have been worse.

"One of our founding principals as a yoga company is that you can't control what happens to you in life, but you can control how you respond - so this is going to be an opportunity for us to move forward and look to something new," she said.

  • The city of Duluth is posting updated storm information online at .
  • Duluth Mayor Emily Larson on Saturday asked that residents sign up for CodeRED emergency email or text alerts; sign-up is available on the city of Duluth's website, . Larson noted that residents who opted into the warning system received two alerts before Thursday morning's storm hit.



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