Storms shutter resorts

Published 10:05 am Wednesday, July 15, 2015

BRAINERD — Storms that tore through the Brainerd area closed resorts, displaced more than 900 vacationers around Gull Lake and left thousands without power during the height of the summer vacation season.

Two popular resorts, Madden’s and Cragun’s, lost power and were forced to shut down after 70 mph winds ripped through the area Sunday. The Star Tribune reported the storm sent trees crashing onto cars, overturned boats, wrecked docks and blew the roof off a building at Madden’s.

Cragun’s owner, Dutch Cragun, said it’s the first time weather has forced his resort to close. He said Cragun’s and Madden’s resorts have kept their doors open for years, even during wartime.

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“This is the worst, in my experience, in 75 years since my dad started building Cragun’s in 1940,” he said.

Madden’s plans to reopen in two weeks; Cragun’s will open next week.

More than 4,000 area customers were still without power Wednesday morning, according to Minnesota Power. The utility company’s website says power is expected to be restored Thursday.

Kavanaugh’s Resort was staying open without power. Half the resort guests chose to stay after the storm, but the others left, resort co-owner John Kavanaugh said. Guests who remained were charging phones in the generator-powered office, and using pool showers and bathrooms.

Breezy Point Resort, which had minor damage, welcomed about 100 guests that were displaced by the storm.

The storms also displaced a wedding. Brianna Sucik and Kevin Relf will get married this Saturday in her mother’s yard at Hole-in-the-Day Bay, instead of at Madden’s Resort as they had planned.

On Monday, Sucik was busy removing downed trees with a chain saw, but she took a break to find rooms for 50 out-of-town guests and secure a caterer, a tent and a dance floor. She was encouraged by the way things were working out, but became teary as she considered the damage to her hometown.

“My friends and family are pulling together and making things work,” she said.

Others were still assessing the damage, including many downed trees in Pillsbury State Forest that blocked roads and trails. The forest is closed until further notice, the Department of Natural Resources said.

A hangar at Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport was also damaged.

Minnesota Department of Public Safety spokesman Bruce Gordon said counties are still gathering information, but it doesn’t look like the damage was bad enough to qualify for federal aid.

The trees of the Brainerd area took the brunt of the storm. Cragun, who remembered planting pine trees with his dad the day before Pearl Harbor, said it was tragic to see his trees, now more than 50 feet, flattened.