Skip to main content

Storm tested our mettle and taught us a few things as well

The damage from the July 21 straight line winds ranged all across the Ely area. Two lives were lost and countless homes, vehicles and properties were damaged. Some places have been changed for generations.
The National Weather Service tells us this was a massive bow echo thunderstorm with wind speeds in the Ely area clocked from 53 to 62 miles per hour. Those speeds could be higher than what was recorded but power was lost to some recording stations, including the Ely airport.
If you were awake around 3 a.m. you heard what sounded like a freight train and what looked like steady lightning. Throw in downpours of rain and plenty of thunder and many people were in their basements or at least away from windows.
The aftermath came to light a short time later. In town there were trees down, bleachers tossed over a fence, a dugout destroyed and other signs of Mother Nature’s wrath. Ely proper was without power for up to nine hours until Minnesota Power and city crews could repair damages.
Outside of town the damage was more severe. Eight days later there were still homes without power. According to Lake Country Power, there were 267 homes in the company’s service area without power at 2 p.m. Thursday. Of those, 264 were in the Ely area.
Areas that were hit hard included:
• Maple Street and Moss Ridge Road.
• Van Vac Road off of Hwy. 88
• Burntside Lodge and islands on Burntside.
• The Cloquet Line, especially further north.
• The Fernberg Road and around Snowbank Lake, there was even a section of the road itself near Lake One blown out by a lightning strike.
• The Echo Trail including Passi Road, North Arm Road and the Grassy Lake Road.
Thursday and Friday city of Ely workers cleaned up the town and tried to restore normality. Trees down in Whiteside Park were removed, dirt was brought in and grass was seeded. The Blueberry Art Festival will go on this weekend as planned. We’re all just thankful this storm didn’t arrive this past Thursday.
Outside the city limits the sounds of the storm were generators humming and chainsaws cutting. Numerous contractors were called out to help people remove trees, many of which went over two feet in diameter. Norway and white pine trees were snapped off or pulled out by the roots along with popple, birch and balsam.
Some of the trees that did land on roofs included branches puncturing into the house. One contractor reported pulling out a branch from the roof and being able to see into a bedroom. Several vehicles were smashed, luckily with no one in them.
A house on Maple had a tree on the roof and a Norway that broke off and put a hole in the top of the garage. Yet on the deck, two inflatable swimming toys never moved.
There were numerous stories of neighbors helping neighbors, of friends opening their refrigerators and homes to help those without power.
Employees of Lake Country Power and all of the companies called in to help restore power have been working 16 hour days to turn the lights back on.
If you’re looking for a miracle, take a drive around and remember the loss of life could’ve been much greater than the two lives lost in the BWCA.
Also keep in mind that having your yard destroyed and watching heavy equipment remove the trees that provided shade and north woods views can be a hard pill to swallow for those home and cabin owners.
This storm will prove to be one that changed the look of the area in places. Those straight line winds once again tested our mettle and taught us to value generators and chainsaws along with good friends and neighbors.
Ely will undoubtedly be the site of future wind storms. We’ve been through this before and we know how to rise above and move forward. No one is talking about leaving.

Sign up for News Alerts

Subscribe to news updates