Weather Forecast


Douglas County helping on the storm front

Matthew Duenow (left) and Bob Steidl, two linemen with Alexandria Light and Power, are headed to Florida this week to help with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma. (Contributed)

Help has been heading from all directions across the country in the wake of not one, but two hurricanes; the first, Harvey, hitting Texas and the second, Irma, hitting Florida.

And some of that help has come from people in Douglas County.

To date, three people from the Alexandria team of the Central Minnesota Chapter of the Red Cross have been deployed, according to Bonnie Braun, preparedness educator with the Red Cross.

Juanita Bolinger and Rich SolHeid of Alexandria went to Texas, while Kathy Johnson of Osakis was deployed to Florida.

Bolinger worked in Red Cross shelters in Texas, while Solheid drove the Emergency Response Vehicle down there and Johnson helped to set up shelters for Hurricane Irma in Florida.

The Red Cross wasn't the only organization sending help.

Two linemen, Bob Steidl and Matthew Duenow, from Alexandria Light and Power were part of a larger crew from Minnesota who went to Florida to help with recovery efforts.

Alexandria Light and Power is part of the Minnesota Municipal Utilities Association, which organized electric system mutual aid crews to be deployed to Florida. To date, there were 44 crew members, along with a variety of bucket trucks, digger derricks and other trucks that left for Florida on Saturday.

The mutual aid effort is in response to a call from the American Public Power Association, according to a post on Alexandria Light and Power's Facebook page.

Downgraded to a tropical storm early on Monday, Hurricane Irma had ranked as one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes recorded, according to Reuters. It cut power to millions of people and ripped roofs off homes as it hit a wide swath of Florida on Sunday and Monday. Authorities believe the storm killed dozens in the Caribbean with more deaths being reported in the southern U.S.

Hurricane Harvey hit southern Texas on Aug. 25 and took the greatest toll on Houston and areas east of the city.

The Red Cross sent hundreds of trained Red Cross disaster relief workers, truckloads of supplies as well as tens of thousands of ready-to-eat meals to support relief efforts in Texas and Florida.

Trailers full of shelter supplies including cots and blankets — enough to support more than 120,000 people — were sent to help people affected by Irma.

"Twenty Red Cross relief workers from Minnesota are in place or on their way to support people impacted by this powerful storm," said Phil Hansen, CEO of the American Red Cross Minnesota Region. "Thankfully dedicated and trained responders are able and willing to help those in need."

Help is needed

The Red Cross depends on financial donations to be able to provide disaster relief immediately. Donations can be made by calling 1- 800-RED CROSS. Donations enable the Red Cross to prepare for, respond to and help people recover from disasters. The Red Cross honors donor intent.

About the American Red Cross

The American Red Cross shelters, feeds and provides emotional support to victims of disasters; supplies about 40 percent of the nation's blood; teaches skills that save lives; provides international humanitarian aid; and supports military members and their families. The Red Cross, a not-for-profit organization, depends on volunteers and the generosity of the American public to perform its mission. For more information, visit

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. Besides writing articles for the Echo Press, she has a blog, “Newspaper Girl on the Run.” Celeste is on a continuous healthy living journey and loves to teach bootcamp fitness classes and run. She has participated in nearly 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon (13.1 mile) distances.

(320) 763-1242