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High winds, large waves hit Twin Ports

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Waves crash on the shore of Brighton Beach Saturday, April 14, 2018. High winds with gusts up to 54 mph caused flooding along the lakeshore. Adelle Whitefoot / awhitefoot@duluthnews.com2 / 2

Canal Park and Brighton Beach were packed Saturday, with traffic at a slow crawl, as people flocked to the big lake to feel high winds and view large waves on Lake Superior.

Wind speeds were as high as 48 mph on Park Point with gusts up to 54 mph, according to the National Weather Service. Gale warnings on Lake Superior were put in place early Saturday morning and will continue through today with waves from 10 feet to 15 feet high expected to crash on the shore.

Thousands of people flocked to the shoreline to see, take pictures or shoot video of the large waves crashing on the rocks and breakwalls. Parts of Canal Park saw flooding Saturday with the Lakewalk Trail covered with 5 to 6 inches of water in some places. Chunks of ice were even thrown onto the road at Brighton Beach.

As wave gawkers flocked to the big lake, the city of Duluth and the Duluth Police Department urged people to be cautious. “The lift bridge piers and the shoreline of Canal Park and Park Point are particularly dangerous,” read a statement issued Saturday afternoon. “There are injuries today from people walking on the ice on the Park Point beaches. Please use caution while enjoying today’s unique and interesting weather.”

The Twin Cities and parts of southwest Minnesota experienced blizzard conditions throughout the day Saturday. The Duluth International Airport tweeted at 12:20 p.m. Saturday that many flights were being diverted from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to Duluth due to the hazardous conditions in the Twin Cities. According to Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun, this also included the Winnipeg Jets, who are scheduled to play the Minnesota Wild in a Stanley Cup playoff game at 6 p.m. today at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

Wind gust speeds:

  • Park Point — 54 mph
  • Ashland — 49 mph
  • Cloquet — 46 mph
  • Superior — 46 mph
  • Duluth Airport — 45 mph
  • Two Harbors — 41 mph
  • Silver Bay — 33 mph
Weather has travelers feeling grounded

A woman sat in the terminal at the Duluth airport on Saturday afternoon looking exasperated.

“How do you get to Minneapolis?” she asked.

On Saturday, there was no easy answer after a massive spring snowstorm converged on the Twin Cities and wreaked havoc for travelers.

Craig and Sarah Beard of Alma, Mich., are celebrating their 46th wedding anniversary today, but this isn’t what they had planned. They were stuck in the Duluth terminal after having their Delta flight to Minneapolis-St. Paul diverted Saturday morning. From there, it was supposed to be off to the sunny skies and 80-degree temperatures of Phoenix.

“We were on our descent to Minneapolis and they pulled up,” Craig Beard said. “And we ended up here because they were running out of fuel.”

Getting to Minneapolis would mean more options for getting on their way as flights out of Duluth were already booked.

Beard said he checked with the rental car agencies, but there were no rental cars left, and even if there were, driving could be treacherous. He checked with Skyline Shuttle, but the first available shuttle wasn’t until 1 a.m. This was a headache with no available aspirin.

Sarah Beard wondered about the price of the shuttle.

“Who cares at this point?” Craig Beard said. “Who books a flight in April and thinks they’re going to get stuck in a snowstorm?”

Welcome to Minnesota.

“If we can’t get the last shuttle, we’ll just get a hotel,” Craig Beard said. “So we’re going to spend our 46th wedding anniversary in Duluth, or on a bus or something.”

Spring storm to continue through Monday morning

A lakeshore flood warning is in effect today. Beaches and shoreline areas “which are oriented from northwest to southeast are at the greatest risk for infrastructure damage and beach erosion,” the National Weather Service said.

Winter storm warnings are in effect for Carlton and southern St. Louis counties until 7 a.m. Monday. According to the Weather Service, heavy snow is expected to total 5 to 8 inches with localized amounts up to 12 inches. Difficult travel conditions — especially today — are expected with significant reductions in visibility at times.

Douglas County is under a winter storm warning until 7 a.m. Monday with snow totals expected to be from 11 to 15 inches with localized amounts up to 21 inches. The Weather Service said travel conditions will be dangerous today in Northwestern Wisconsin.

Ashland and Bayfield counties are under a winter storm warning until 7 a.m. Monday and are expected to get 15 to 19 inches of snow with localized amounts up to 23 inches. According to the National Weather Service, whiteout conditions, blowing snow and significant drifting are likely and travel will be very dangerous today.

— News Tribune reporter Jon Nowacki contributed to this report.

Adelle Whitefoot

Adelle Whitefoot is a Michigan native who moved to Minnesota in Sept. 2014 when she started as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle. She graduated from Northern Michigan University in Marquette, Mich., in 2012 with a bachelor's in English writing and has been a professional photographer since 2011. Whitefoot is the night general assignments reporter for the Duluth News Tribune. 

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