Thoughts From Bemidji’s Harrowing Storm

This tree at Diamond Point Park presents a triangle.

I took a drive through parts of Bemidji today, because I hadn’t had a chance to see much of the effects of Monday night’s storm, which we at the Pioneer experienced as more of giant sheets of water rushing toward the window we were peering through, rather than trees toppling. That night, we were struggling to put a paper together, which we ended up doing in the publisher’s kitchen because we had no power at the Pioneer. I was glad to be a part of that; those seat-of-the-pants adventures that combine camaraderie and accomplishment are rare and memorable.

Then the next day, I did all my interviews downtown, learning more about what happened between the carnival and downtown, and then headed to work to finish out a 14-hour workday, so I didn’t see firsthand the extent of the damages that day either.

So today, I did a little stop-and-go driving, checking out Library Park, Diamond Point Park and Nymore.

Tree snapped off in Library park.

Yes, Diamond Point Park is closed, but that isn’t keeping people out. I saw dozens of people taking photos in the half-hour or so that I was there, some standing on the sidewalk, others walking around in the park, sidestepping the occasional branch. They were quiet, just taking in the devastation.

Seeing tree after tree just tipped over has a sort of science fiction feel.
The bench looks fine, considering the devastation next to it.

I had a nice visit with Chris Christensen and his friend Alisha Barnett. Chris, who grew up here, lives in Rochester, Minn., but also has a place between Bagley and Bemidji. Alisha is from Iowa. They just came into town today, not realizing what they would find, and headed for Diamond Point Park. That was an effective introduction to the storm’s power. Alisha said the most powerful message for her was how the trees were ripped from the ground.

Chris was shooting photos and video and planned to look around for more to see. He has started his own business, Chris Christensen Video Production ( I checked out some of his videos; they are pretty sweet.

This house and yard in Nymore looks like it was really hit hard.

The trip through Nymore was about what I expected, from what I had seen from the photos Monte had shot for the Pioneer, but it’s always different to see it firsthand. Some of the fallen trees are still lying on houses and garages; others have been cut up and stacked on the curb to be hauled away next week.

It made me think not just of damage, but of danger. These trees could have caused injuries, even death. Noemi Aylesworth told me yesterday that branches were stabbed into the ground like arrows, and were so firmly planted they were difficult to pull out.

I talked to Noemi, owner of the Cabin Coffehouse and Cafe, yesterday for my downtown story, Noemi lives in Nymore, as does her son, her daughter and her in-laws. All lost trees Monday night. Noemi said her son had a tree in his house, her daughter had a power line on her garage, and her in-laws had a tree on their garage. That is one busy family now.

Here’s a house in Nymore where trees were spared. The trees obviously had some importance, with one holding a swing and two others a hammock.

Another thing that comes to mind when I see all the trees down is the loss of favorite trees, whether in one’s yard or in a favorite place to go. Roy C. Booth is mourning the loss of his favorite tree in Library Park, a tree he would lean against to read.

Brenda Mayer, who was at the carnival with family when the storm hit, lost 30 trees at her home, including one that crashed into her living room. After they waited out the storm at Toasty Beavers, they drove home. Her dad, who lives next door, had told her, “It’s not good,” but didn’t convey the extent of the damage.

Brenda’s sister, Karen Fuller, showed up later.

“When I got there, she cried,” Karen said. She added that it felt like Brenda done what needed to be done (including calling her insurance agent and leaving a message at 8:15 a.m.) and she could finally relax and let it all out.

At Keg ‘N’ Cork, I chatted with a couple from Fargo, Chris and Ray Rohde, who were staying in a townhouse at a resort on Cass Lake. Unfortunately, they were still without power there, so they came to Bemidji to see Bemidji Woolen Mills.

“It was incredible,” Chris said of the storm. “Nothing I’d ever want to go through again.” At the resort, she said, “everyone pulled together.”

At Lake Bemidji State Park, it was a different story. “We were very, very lucky and had virtually no damage,” Sue Olin, the assistant park manager, told me Tuesday at noon. “We’ve been getting a lot of calls this morning,” she added. “We’re looking forward to a busy holiday.”

DNR foresters and firefighters were busy assessing damages on state forest roads Tuesday, said Greg Vollhaber, assistant area forester. At noon Tuesday, he said 10 foresters and three seasonal firefighters were at work, opening roads as best they could. A helicopter was also assessing damage, he said.

RandiSu Tanem, chairwoman of the water carnival, said a tree had fallen on a trailer owned by the Jaycees. They’ll have to fix it, she said, but right now they can’t afford it.

This afternoon, I stopped by the Pioneer to retrieve the cell phone I’d forgotten there last night when I charged it. While I was visiting with Kayla and Jack, we heard thunder and walked outside to see ominous clouds, but none of the green haze that was around before Monday’s storm. Bemidji, fortunately, was on the edge of it, but I read later on the Pioneer website that today’s storm knocked out power to hundreds of people in the Red Lake, Kelliher, Turtle Lake and Waskish areas.On this final day of the water carnival, the fireworks will cap off the festivities in Bemidji. I have to break with my tradition of going to opening night at the Paul Bunyan Playhouse (which I love, partly because of the after-party where I can visit with actors and other theater lovers), because I also love fireworks.

Best wishes to all those cleaning up from the storm. Be well.

— Laurie

1 Response

Comments are closed.