LAKE SHORE- As Lake Shore Police Chief Steve Sundstrom drove through the back streets of the city on Thursday morning, he expressed disbelief at the extent of the storm damage.
“I have been at Lake Shore for almost 19 years,” said Sundstrom. “This is the worst Lake Shore I have seen in a storm since I’ve been here.”
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At around 10 a.m. Thursday, chainsaws were buzzing in all directions along Gullwood Road. Small passages, with enough room for a vehicle, were cut in massive trees crossing the road. Damage to the houses was visible among the branches of fallen pine and deciduous trees.
On Ridge Road, just north of Cass County Highway 78, former Police Chief John Bukovich agreed. Bukovich stood in front of his house, looking north towards a mass of tangled trees and power lines completely blocking the street.
“My God, this looks like a mess,” Bukovich said.
A Cass County Sheriff’s deputy and a conservation officer from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources kept a roadblock on County Highway 77 closed to all but residents while clean-up work was underway. Sundstrom said the stretch of road between Sherwood Forest and Zorbaz on Gull Lake was the hardest hit in the city.
“For us, it’s much worse than the crisis (in July 2015),” Sundstrom said. “It’s very widespread.… We didn’t get a warning. A lot of people were caught off guard by this storm.”
At the Baywood Townhomes Association on Channel View Road, the association’s president, Charlie Pearson, was surprised by the felled trees along the shore of the Gull Lake Gully. Several pines have been uprooted and lie on the docks and boat lifts.
“We’re pretty sheltered here, we’re kind of hidden behind it all,” Pearson said. “In fact, it’s quite surprising that this has happened.”
But, he noted, heavy rains in recent weeks have caused flooding along the shore and have softened the ground.
“This ground is soft and it destroys these trees as if nothing had happened,” he said. “This wind grabs them and just rips them off.”
Just down the road in Zorbaz on Gull Lake, the Salvation Army has set up a rescue center to provide food and water to residents without electricity. A few trees had fallen on the restaurant’s lawn and one of its iconic airplane weather vanes was torn from its post, but otherwise Zorbaz was in relatively good shape, owner Lee Johnson said. The restaurant had electricity and took care of the lunch service at 11:30 am on Thursday.
“The community always works very well together and we will do everything we can to help,” Johnson said.
Lake Shore Town Hall was also open to residents for restroom use and a chance to get out of the heat. Sundstrom said the generators kept the town hall building energized.
Along the north shore of Gull Lake at Grand View Lodge in Nisswa, General Manager Mark Ronnei said the resort suffered significantly more structural damage Thursday morning compared to the supercell storm of July 12 last year. . Twelve guest residences on the resort property sustained damage, as well as the Chocolate Ox building and the pool building. The most dramatic damage was done to the main lodge, where much of the aft deck was destroyed by a 125-year-old oak tree. The enormous log cabin is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
At Roy villas belonging to the lodge, Ronnei said about 10 massive white pines, estimated to be 150 years old each, have been uprooted cleanly from saturated soil.
Ronnei said there are two weddings scheduled at the lodge on Saturday and he expects the resort to be ready for them. Between lodge staff and contractors, approximately 1,200 hours of work would be done by the end of Thursday in the clean-up efforts.