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Duluthians survived ‘quiet
destruction’ of vicious wind storm
News Tribune, July 8, 1999
Early Sunday afternoon, Duluthians
Glenn Kreag, Barb Koth and their dog,
Abby, stopped for lunch after crossing
five portages to reach the shore of one
of the Kekekabic Ponds in the Boundary
Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
It started to rain, and the sky turned
greenish-yellow to the west. So the two
campers propped their 17-foot canoe in a
tree, crouched under it and ate peanut
butter sandwiches and sardines.
“We were admiring the fury of it,’ Kreag
said of the storm that whipped the water
into a white froth.
All of a sudden, the wind grabbed the
canoe and tossed it backward.
Instinctively, Kreag held it down,
fearing it would be lost in the rapidly
Then they heard a cracking sound from
the red pine that moments earlier had
been a canoe prop.
“The tree is coming down,’ said Koth.
The tree hit the canoe, with Kreag under
it, and threw both to the ground.
Neither was hurt.
But the worst was yet to come.
“We have to get out of here!’ Kreag
shouted, and both began to run, but in
Kreag, a 55-year-old extension educator
for the University of Minnesota, spotted
the root ball of a large, freshly
At the same time, Koth scrambled into an
open spot, but found no safety there. “I
felt like I wasn’t going to stay on the
ground . . . like possibly I was going
to be lifted,’ she said of the winds.
Crouching under the root ball, Kreag
shouted to Koth to join him. She dashed
to the tree barefoot, having shed her
shoes during lunch, and crawled beneath
the roots. Abby, the 6-year-old black
lab and greyhound mix, joined them.
For the next 20 minutes or so, they and
their dog watched as trees bent nearly
to the ground, then snapped. It was a
quiet sort of destruction, not what they
would have imagined.
“It was not like it was huge crashing,’
Kreag said of the trees. “There was
noise from the storm, but the trees bent
over and over and over until they gave
up. You could just see them going down.’
When it was over, the landscape had
changed. Before the straight-line winds
hit, Kreag and Koth stood in a majestic
forest of pines, a classic canoe-country
The aftermath reminded Koth, who once
lived in Washington state, of the rows
of downed trees after the Mount St.
Helens volcanic eruption in 1980.
“It was so orderly and at the same time
it was utter chaos,’ said Koth, a
planner for the National Scenic Byways
Resource Center. “I can see why they
call them straight-line winds. It is
picture-perfect straight-line trees all
down in one direction.’