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Giant bonfire used to dispose of storm debris in Brainerd

BRAINERD, Minn. -- A steady stream of trailers poured into Brainerd International Raceway Thursday, but it wasn't for a race. Instead, truck beds and trailers were loaded with the remains of trees once silent sentinels along heavily forested stre...

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People drop off trees and brush at Brainerd International Raceway Thursday for a large bonfire of storm debris. Kelly Humphrey / Forum News Service

BRAINERD, Minn. -- A steady stream of trailers poured into Brainerd International Raceway Thursday, but it wasn’t for a race. Instead, truck beds and trailers were loaded with the remains of trees once silent sentinels along heavily forested streets and neighborhoods. A raceway employee lost track after counting 75 loads Thursday morning. The raceway opened its gates to allow anyone to bring storm debris -- trees, branches and limbs -- and deposit them into a giant bonfire. Some people made multiple trips and the track extended the hours into the night.
Residents came from the hard-hit neighborhoods between Gull and Round lakes just west of Highway 371, but also from other lakes area neighborhoods. They brought white pine and white oak with trunks so large they would have easily made living room table tops. As trees they once stood about 100 feet tall and had diameters of 24 inches. Rings on one giant white oak gave its age at about 175 years. "It's devastating," said Wadeen Baribeau. "We locals can't even find our way home sometimes - it's that different. It's so cleared out." The huge white pine and oaks no longer line the neighborhood streets. Baribeau was at Grand View Lodge when the storm hit. When she tried to reach her home, she found a green barricade. It was like trying to drive into a horizontal forest, she said. In the daylight following Sunday night's storm, the altered landscape was finally visible in its twisted mass of trees and power lines. "It's so sad because some of us will never see those trees again," she said. "Some of them are 150 years old." Baribeau said she's experienced hurricanes and the derecho that took down massive numbers of trees in the Boundary Waters blowdown, which she saw firsthand. "It doesn't compare," she said, adding it was not as bad as this storm in the lakes area. During the height of the storm, Baribeau said the trees fell with loud bangs. "It sounded like Camp Ripley, very loud. It was like bam. ... It sounded like bombs going off." Baribeau said they are thankful for the efforts of the power crews and law enforcement. It was a nice thing of the raceway to allow them to use the site for storm debris, she said. Through it all, Baribeau said the storm did a positive thing. It reconnected people and showed how compassionate they can be for each other, she said. People opened their doors for others to take advantage of a hot shower. Food was delivered from complete strangers, with reports of pizza being ordered for the workers from someone outside of Minnesota. The wonderful after effect of the storm is seeing how people care about each other, Baribeau said. "Neighbors know neighbors better. So, if anything, that was a wonderful part of it, learning who your neighbors actually are and to see the compassion coming from outside ... There always is a good. We lost all these trees. It will come back. It will be something different but it will be good - that's the feeling in the area."BRAINERD, Minn. -- A steady stream of trailers poured into Brainerd International Raceway Thursday, but it wasn’t for a race.Instead, truck beds and trailers were loaded with the remains of trees once silent sentinels along heavily forested streets and neighborhoods. A raceway employee lost track after counting 75 loads Thursday morning.The raceway opened its gates to allow anyone to bring storm debris -- trees, branches and limbs -- and deposit them into a giant bonfire. Some people made multiple trips and the track extended the hours into the night.
Residents came from the hard-hit neighborhoods between Gull and Round lakes just west of Highway 371, but also from other lakes area neighborhoods. They brought white pine and white oak with trunks so large they would have easily made living room table tops. As trees they once stood about 100 feet tall and had diameters of 24 inches. Rings on one giant white oak gave its age at about 175 years."It's devastating," said Wadeen Baribeau. "We locals can't even find our way home sometimes - it's that different. It's so cleared out."The huge white pine and oaks no longer line the neighborhood streets. Baribeau was at Grand View Lodge when the storm hit. When she tried to reach her home, she found a green barricade. It was like trying to drive into a horizontal forest, she said.In the daylight following Sunday night's storm, the altered landscape was finally visible in its twisted mass of trees and power lines."It's so sad because some of us will never see those trees again," she said. "Some of them are 150 years old."Baribeau said she's experienced hurricanes and the derecho that took down massive numbers of trees in the Boundary Waters blowdown, which she saw firsthand."It doesn't compare," she said, adding it was not as bad as this storm in the lakes area.During the height of the storm, Baribeau said the trees fell with loud bangs."It sounded like Camp Ripley, very loud. It was like bam. ... It sounded like bombs going off."Baribeau said they are thankful for the efforts of the power crews and law enforcement. It was a nice thing of the raceway to allow them to use the site for storm debris, she said.Through it all, Baribeau said the storm did a positive thing. It reconnected people and showed how compassionate they can be for each other, she said. People opened their doors for others to take advantage of a hot shower. Food was delivered from complete strangers, with reports of pizza being ordered for the workers from someone outside of Minnesota. The wonderful after effect of the storm is seeing how people care about each other, Baribeau said."Neighbors know neighbors better. So, if anything, that was a wonderful part of it, learning who your neighbors actually are and to see the compassion coming from outside ... There always is a good. We lost all these trees. It will come back. It will be something different but it will be good - that's the feeling in the area."

Deb Van Roy (left) and Mike Peterson pull branches from the back of their trailer Thursday at Brainerd International Raceway as they drop off storm debris for a storm debris bonfire. (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch - Gallery and Video)
Deb Van Roy (left) and Mike Peterson pull branches from the back of their trailer Thursday at Brainerd International Raceway as they drop off storm debris for a storm debris bonfire. Kelly Humphrey / Forum News Service

Deb Van Roy (left) and Mike Peterson pull branches from the back of their trailer Thursday at Brainerd International Raceway as they drop off storm debris for a storm debris bonfire. (Kelly Humphrey, Brainerd Dispatch - Gallery and Video)
Deb Van Roy (left) and Mike Peterson pull branches from the back of their trailer Thursday at Brainerd International Raceway as they drop off storm debris for a storm debris bonfire. Kelly Humphrey / Forum News Service

Related Topics: BRAINERDWEATHER
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