BWCA rescuers recount frightening early morning rescue

By KBJR News 1

July 22, 2014 Updated Jul 22, 2014 at 11:16 PM CST

Crane Lake, MN (NNCNOW.com) - It was a frightening night for several groups of campers as strong winds ripped through the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.

"It was chaos, three o'clock in the morning, we had a big storm," said Mark Anderson, who owns Anderson's Canoe Outfitters on Crane Lake.

The strong winds toppled trees, seriously injuring two campers in a tent on Lac La Croix.

Another five campers also suffered injuries from falling trees on Loon Lake near the Canadian border.

"One had this huge black eye and the other one was sitting there with an injured leg and the other lady was underneath a tree," said Lori Sanborn of Handberg's Marina.

Sanborn was part of a rescue crew that helped evacuate a group near loon lake.

"They just couldn't believe it, the people in the tent, the wind lifted the tent right up," she said.

Winds up to 70 miles per hour toppled trees all around helpless campers.

Large swaths of fallen trees turned the landscape into a puzzling picture that rescue crews had to navigate.

One 13 year old boy will be thanking his father for years to come.

"The father had tried to shield the son and when the tree was coming down he kinda dove over his kid so he took the blow across the whole left side of his body," recounted 2nd Lt. Jon Olson with the St. Louis Co. Rescue Squad.

Rescue crews also said campers described winds like a freight train as a strobe light of lightning left them very confused as to what would happen next.

"They weren't sure if there were any more trees were going to start falling around them, they couldn't see the trees that were falling around them, except with the light of the lightning," said Anderson.

Early morning rescues were made difficult by continued winds and rain, but crews from all around the area worked hard through the night and into the day to get the injured back to safety.

"Access was a huge consideration today that we were able to get motorized boats to them directly in both instances. Had they been a day farther into their trips, any of those groups, it would have been much harder to gain access," said Chief Jeff Sanborn with the Crane Lake Fire Dept.

Bryce Henry
bhenry@kbjr.com