Severe Storms Kill Camper, Injure Several Others in the BWCAW

Radar image shows severe storms moving through the Arrowhead the evening of June 19, 2016.
Radar image shows severe storms moving through the Arrowhead the evening of June 19, 2016. (National Weather Service image.)

A tree fell on a Rochester, MN teacher in the Boundary Waters last night, killing him and injuring his son. The man was identified as Craig Walz, the brother of Congressman Tim Walz. Elsewhere in the wilderness, a lightning strike and more falling trees were responsible for additional injuries.

Strong storms moved through northern Minnesota at nightfall. The system spawned tornadoes and winds up to 70 miles per hour. Hail up to softball-sized was also reported around the region.

In the fatal incident, four people – Craig Walz, his son, and two others – were camping on Duncan Lake, an entry point lake off the Gunflint Trail, adjacent to West Bearskin Lake. Walz’s son was severely injured and airlifted to a hospital.

The camping party was reportedly trying to get out of the woods to the shore of the lake, where they would be safer, when tragedy struck.

“As soon as the winds came up, they were trying to get to a safer area away from the trees,” Cook County Chief Deputy Will Sandstrom told Fox 9 News.

On the other side of the wilderness, on Sunday Bay of Crooked Lake, a group from Outward Bound suffered from a lightning strike despite safety precautions, the Ely Echo reported. They were reportedly spread out and sitting on the life jackets, but lightning travelled through the ground 120 feet and caused unconsciousness, burns, and other injuries.

On Clove Lake, another man was injured on his upper body by a falling tree. He was rescued and transported to a local hospital.

Several agencies including the Cook County Sheriff Office, the U.S. Forest Service, and the St. Louis County Rescue Squad participated in emergency response. The Duncan Lake group was also assisted by individuals from nearby YMCA Camp Menogyn.

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