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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 accelerating winds.
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 different directions.
Kreag, a 55-year-old extension educator for the University of Minnesota, spotted the root ball of a large, freshly uprooted tree.
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 scene.
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.’

This photo from the US Forest Service brings you close to the storm's power.



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