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Park Rapids Residents Pick Up The Pieces After Storm

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(credit: CBS) Bill Hudson
Bill Hudson has been with WCCO-TV since 1989. The native of Elk Rive...
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PARK RAPIDS, Minn. (WCCO) – People in Park Rapids are cleaning up, after a Memorial Day storm blew through town.

Powerful winds damaged homes and businesses — and downed trees and power lines. The National Weather Service in Grand Forks believes straight line winds are to blame. But they’re still checking out the damage to see if it was possibly a tornado.

“It obviously hit us pretty bad,” said Rachel Eischens.

Nobody was injured in the storm but power is still out to 25 percent of the town. Most heavily damaged is the center of town. With widespread power outages, schools cancelled classes for the day.

The fairgrouinds grandstand lost its roof and other homes and businesses also suffered structural damage.

In a bit of nature’s irony even the DNR Forestry Office wasn’t spared. Huge pines were no match to straight line winds. Residents are being warned to watch for unstable trees.Wind gusts of up to 45 miles per hour, could easily topple still more.

“Just started tipping trees over and once it started doing that, it got into the power lines and up against houses. Started south of town and split the center of town,” said Chief Terry Eilers of the Park Rapids Police.

Anna Hochstetter’s house took a direct hit when a large tree crashed onto her rooftop — only a chimney spared it from more damage. With chainsaws and ropes, crews are removing it with surgical precision.

“Actually it didn’t make a lot of noise,” she said. “Looked out the front door, nothing but trees coming into my house.”

With so many snapped and uprooted trees, power lines are a tangled mess. As crews work to restore electricity and clear away debris, Lou Lambert will be looking for a new set of wheels.

“I guess wind started blowing hard, it was raining and pretty soon looking out the window trees just kinda fell right over,” Lambert said.

The same series of storms that ripped through here also did quite a bit of damage around Nisswa, Breezy Point and Merrifield in Crow Wing County, toppling trees and power lines.

In fact a campground there had numerous trees down. Fortunately, Memorial Day weekend campers had long pulled up stakes.

There’s still a few more days of clean-up ahead but with any luck, the power should be restored by Wednesday.

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