Column: Covering -- and living through -- the storm and its aftermath

Was it the restless dog? A barely perceptible change in the air? Whatever the reason, I woke up at about 1 a.m. Thursday. Unable to get back to sleep right away, I reached for my smartphone to catch up on the news for a few minutes, check the wea...

A portion of the storm damage at News Tribune journalist Andrew Krueger's home in Rice Lake.

Was it the restless dog? A barely perceptible change in the air?

Whatever the reason, I woke up at about 1 a.m. Thursday. Unable to get back to sleep right away, I reached for my smartphone to catch up on the news for a few minutes, check the weather...

It would be 21 hours before I'd be able to get back to bed - in a house without power or water, surrounded by downed trees.

The severe storms that struck Duluth and the Northland on Thursday morning hit home for me and many others here at the News Tribune - literally. Like the floods of 2012, the Halloween blizzard of 1991 and others, this is a story we've been covering and living through at the same time.

We've been writing about thousands of people without power - when many of us are in the same boat. We've been taking photos of downed trees, knowing that we'll need to fire up a chainsaw at home as soon as we get the chance.


What I saw when I checked my phone early Thursday was radar showing a line of severe storms racing across the Northland - right toward the Twin Ports. There were severe thunderstorm warnings and reports of damage to the west. It looked bad - so I stayed up to post updates to the DNT website, Facebook and Twitter for night-owl readers, and watch the storm roll past my house in Rice Lake.

At 3 a.m. a warning was issued for the Twin Ports. I posted updates online, moved the car into the garage, checked the windows, and waited. At about 3:25, the storm hit.

And what a storm it was. A hurricane, really. A constant roar of wind and rain and thunder, hitting like a freight train and shaking the house. Flashes of lightning sporadically illuminated the bending trees outside. The power flickered, flickered... and was gone.

Within minutes - five? 10? It's hard to remember - the worst was over at my house, with just some lingering rain and lightning. It was dark, inside and out. Warm and humid. A quick check of the house, the garage - seemingly unscathed. The surrounding woods? I could tell trees were down, a lot of trees, but the thin, wavering beam of the flashlight didn't provide much help. It would be hours later when I finally saw the scope of what the storm had left behind.

But tending to the damage and powerless homes would have to wait, for many of us at the News Tribune. There was important information that the community needed to receive, and it was our responsibility to make sure that happened.

I made a somewhat perilous trip to the DNT office downtown at about 4:30 a.m. - thankfully, it still had power, though storm damage was evident all around.

After posting updated information online, at 6:45 a.m. I picked up photo editor Bob King, who had been blocked in by downed trees at his home just outside of Duluth. News Tribune reporters John Myers and Sam Cook fanned out in their storm-tossed neighborhoods to gather information and photos, joined by Peter Passi, Brady Slater, Jana Hollingsworth, John Lundy, Samantha Erkkila, Kim Schneider and Kier Zimmerman.

Lisa Kaczke, Steve Kuchera, Louie St. George and Barrett Chase added to the coverage later in the day. The Pine Journal and Superior Telegram contributed information from their communities. Pippi Mayfield and the copy desk at the DNT provided assistance through the day and put the paper together Thursday night, with Addie Bergstrom designing Friday's front page. The News Tribune's dedicated carriers worked to get the paper delivered in storm-damaged areas. And the whole effort, which continued Friday and Saturday, was bolstered by the dedication of everyone else here at 424 West First Street.


It's something to be commended among lots of good work worth noting in the community - which we've tried to do in our storm coverage. Utility crews and electricians working 16-hour days (or longer) to restore power; city, county and state workers and tree service crews clearing streets and yards; police officers, firefighters and other first responders helping and protecting residents in hard-hit neighborhoods; and above all neighbors helping neighbors to regain some sense of normalcy amid the post-storm chaos.

I returned home as daylight was fading late Thursday, to a neighborhood very different in appearance than the one I had come home to the night before. Sam Cook was spot-on in his column in Friday's paper, when he wrote about "holes in the sky" where green, leafy branches once had been.

It was the end of the first day of an unexpected off-the-grid experience - and a lengthy cleanup and recovery process - for me, many of my colleagues and many others in the community.

As always, we'll continue to work hard to keep you informed - as journalists, and as members of the communities we serve.

Andrew Krueger is multimedia editor at the News Tribune. He can be reached at .

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