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High winds cause power outages, big waves in Duluth region (with video)

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High winds brought down trees and limbs, causing power outages Monday across Duluth’s east side and the Northland.

East Duluth resident Linda Nervick said her bed “shook and shimmied all night long,” the winds keeping her up in her 100-year-old home.

Dennis Henkel heard the crack of a giant limb outside early in the morning. He emerged from his home to see that a maple tree branch had just missed his 2007 Subaru. Last year during an April windstorm, the hood of the same Subaru was crushed by a limb. He got to save his $500 deductible this time around.

“Just barely missed it,” he said. “I had some lighter branches hit the car. It took two of us, one on each end, to get the big one out of the street.”

The National Weather Service in Duluth reported winds as high as 57 mph at Knife River, 55 at the Duluth airport, 46 at the Cloquet airport and 43 at Sky Harbor Airport on the waterfront. Winds still were gusting to more than 40 mph into the evening. The wind kicked up big waves on Lake Superior that drew surfers to the shore at Stony Point between Duluth and Two Harbors, and also chopped at the remaining ice on the lake.

Minnesota Power originally reported nearly 4,700 people were without electricity at 5 p.m., with more than 64 outages. The largest single outage was in Duluth’s east end, with more than 2,500 customers affected, and with another 626 in the Kenwood neighborhood.

“We were able to restore power to 2,500 customers in Duluth’s east side through switching,” said Amy Rutledge, manager of corporate communications for Minnesota Power.

By mid-evening, she added, “The total number of customers [who remain] out is around 1,200.”

Lake Country Power, which serves rural areas across the region, reported about 1,600 customers without power as of 6 p.m. Monday. On its Facebook page, the company cited downed trees and limbs for the power disruption.

Fox 21 News was among those hit hard by the outages. The television newscast, which airs from its London Road studio, lost power at 4:50 p.m. and didn’t get power back till after 6 p.m., causing the station to cancel its 6 o’clock news broadcast. Those who tuned in were treated to a rerun of “The Simpsons,” and a scrolling message announced the cancelation across the bottom of the television screen.

“We had everything all written and put together,” said Diane Alexander, one of the news anchors. “The show was produced but we were just sitting in the dark; it was a bummer.”

The station’s meteorologists, Morgan Kolkmeyer and Jason Sydejko, got inventive. The duo filmed each other and even drew pictures of the storm front that caused the winds. They posted their updates on the station’s Facebook page.

Many other small outages were reported across Duluth, Esko, Hermantown and Cloquet. Minnesota Power also reported ongoing problems in Brainerd, Hibbing and Virginia.

A major outage affecting about 1,000 people in International Falls was reported Monday morning but appeared to have been corrected. Parts of the University of Minnesota Duluth campus were without power, but no classes were canceled. Rutledge said electricity was restored to UMD area after about an hour.

That outage, like many of the others, was caused by a tree falling and downing lines, Rutledge said.

“We have called in extra crews and we’re getting to these as fast as we can,” Rutledge said, also urging people to stay away from any downed lines. Minnesota Power’s trucks with booms could be seen crisscrossing Duluth’s east side into the evening.

Duluth firefighters were kept busy Monday responding to several calls of power lines sparking and starting trees on fire.

News Tribune staff writers Mike Creger and John Myers contributed to this report.

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