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'They all pitched in': Resorts recover from storms, thanks to help from guests

An afternoon storm on July 4 brought down multiple trees at White Pines Resort on Big Turtle Lake. Though four cars appeared to be crushed by the fallen pines, they did not sustain heavy damage. Submitted Photo Courtesy Kohl's Resort1 / 2
Four pontoon boats, still attached to their lifts, on Big Turtle Lake were picked up and flipped in a July 4 storm. Photo Courtesy Kohl's Resort2 / 2

BEMIDJI - After a strong windstorm swept through the region on Independence Day, Debbie Eickhorst, owner of Kohl's Resort on Big Turtle Lake, stepped outside to survey the damage.

She was surprised to find people already gathering debris.

"The guests were outside cleaning up branches before I even went outside," she said.

The storm, packing 70 mph winds, did not badly damage Kohl's. A dock was flipped over onto a boat lift and branches were down around the grounds, but principal structures were left in good shape.

Guests immediately volunteered to help owner Jim Eickhorst dismantle the damaged dock as flipping it back over would have destroyed it, Debbie Eickhorst said.

"They sprung right into action," she said.

Looking across the lakeshore, though, the Eickhorsts realized storm damage was more extensive in other areas along the lake.

The Eickhorsts' son, Aaron, took a Jet Ski out to survey the damage. He saw that trees were down atop multiple vehicles at White Pines Resort, located on the southern shore of Big Turtle Lake.

"They looked like they were smashed, but they hardly got any damage," said Jerry Hummel, who with his wife, Becky, owns White Pines Resort.

Four vehicles in all were covered by fallen trees, Hummel said. One car sustained a torn-off mirror and a creased door. Another had a dented hood and a third received two scratches. The fourth car, parked on the other end of the resort, had its passenger window broken.

"They all drove them home," Hummel said.

Damage at White Pines otherwise was reserved to downed trees. Hummel said they immediately contacted R & R Tree Service, which came over to remove the trees from the cars and to cut fallen trees into logs.

Several large pines, sustaining damage from leaning to cracks, need to be taken down and removed, he noted.

Hummel praised the work of the resort guests, who all pitched in to quickly address the mess left by strong winds.

"After the storm was over, they came over and helped pick up the stuff that was blowing around, picked branches off the road," he said. "Everybody pitched in and helped get the driveways clear and everything."

He noted the resort has weathered storms with similarly high winds, but they usually blew through quickly without causing much damage.

The July 4 storm lasted 25 minutes, he noted.

"It didn't look, from the radar, that we were getting that much of a storm," Hummel said.

In Cass Lake, Jim Bowley still is reporting all the damage his Stony Point Resort incurred in Monday's storm, which carried with it 80 mph straight-line winds.

The resort lost about 100 trees and suffered a significant amount of property damage, including a pop-up trailer, camper trailer and boat.

The main entrance sign was destroyed, as was a sign in town and the air conditioning unit was taken out when a tree landed on the building, he said.

Bowley also said damage was done to a pickup truck, some cabins and an employee's motorcycle.

"Thank God nobody got hurt," he said.

The resort lost power for nearly 20 hours - from 7 p.m. July 2 to about 3:30 p.m. July 3 - so it lost all the food in its walk-in coolers and at waitress stations.

Staff with Northern Clearing, a right-of-way clearing contractor, was staying at the resort so they brought in some equipment to help get the grounds cleaned up.

Resort guests also volunteered to clear the debris, he noted. Downed trees were cleared Tuesday and the brush piles were taken away earlier this week.

"We were all very impressed," Bowley said.

About 30-40 bent and damaged trees still need to be taken down, he said, as they are hanging over campers and trailers.

"We're not done yet," he said, "but within a week, we're looking in pretty good shape."