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Tornado clean-up on Maple Lake near Forada makes progress w/video

Most debris found in the lake is considered to be normal construction debris.

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Members of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office Dive and Rescue Team prepare to go in the water looking for debris.
Celeste Edenloff / Alexandria Echo Press
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FORADA — A May 30 tornado that ravaged through parts of Douglas County left a trail of debris in its wake — not only along the lakeshore of Maple Lake near Forada but also in the depths of the water.

Clean-up efforts were halted a couple of times because of weather conditions — winds and high temperatures — but finally started this week.

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Among the many signs posted at the north access on Maple Lake is one that cautions boaters of debris in the water.
Celeste Edenloff / Alexandria Echo Press

Members of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office Dive and Rescue Team were on Maple Lake Tuesday, June 21, doing some preliminary work for the recovery teams, which were on the water Wednesday, June 22 and expected to be back on the water Thursday, June 23.

Art Vinson, leader for the Dive and Rescue Team, said divers didn’t find anything of substance. He said there were rumors of a vehicle or two that had been tossed into the lake by the tornado, but that the dive team didn’t find any.

The sheriff’s office had four boats with a total of 11 team members on the water for about four hours using sonar technology as they scoured the shoreline looking for debris. Areas with an abundance of debris were marked for the recovery teams so they would know where to go.

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Four of the Dive and Rescue Team members, Lacey Grinager, Sasha Schmidt, Cameron Cordes and Justin Gothier, were in the water, but didn’t do any diving. Instead, they were pulled along the surface with tow ropes from a pontoon as they laid face-first in the water using goggles and a snorkel, scanning for debris.

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Members of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office Dive and Rescue Team were on Maple Lake Tuesday, June 21, 2022, scanning the lake for debris.
Celeste Edenloff / Alexandria Echo Press

Most of what they found, said Vinson, was normal construction debris, along with large chunks of trees and pieces of docks.

Julie Anderson, Douglas County Emergency Management director, said that on Wednesday, June 22, the weather finally cooperated and as of 1 p.m., the recovery efforts were going according to plan.

She said the county hired two private companies to help with the recovery of debris and several people from the Department of Natural Resources, along with people from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, were also on-hand.

She said the MPCA was on-site to make sure all the debris was being sorted properly and that everyone involved with the clean-up process is, and was, taking great care to make sure everything was being cleaned up properly.

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Douglas County Sheriff's Office Dive and Rescue Team members Lacey Grinager and Sasha Schmidt were in Maple Lake Tuesday, June 21, 2022, looking for debris in the water after a May 30 tornado hit the area.
Celeste Edenloff / Alexandria Echo Press

In a previous Echo Press article , Douglas County Land and Resource Management Director Dave Rush said that the storm and tornado that ripped through the Forada and Maple Lake area scattered debris from structures and property into the lake for approximately one mile and as far as 500-feet out into the lake. Debris was scattered over approximately 50 acres of the lake. Most of the debris is located within 75-feet of the shoreline and is piled up against the shoreline. Other lakeshore equipment remains in the lake.

Water levels on many lakes are higher than in 2019 when no-wake zones were put in.

Rush also said that much of the debris consists of construction materials such as wood, sheet rock, roofing, metal siding and insulation. Other materials include doors, windows, water toys, gas cans, deck sections, lawn furnishings, dock decking, boat parts and various household items. Larger items identified included large trees, house or shed walls or roofs, boats, boat lifts and docks. Much of the wood debris contains visible screws or nails, and there is sharp metal and glass on the bottom in the near-shore area, he noted.

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The Douglas County Board of Commissioners appropriated up to $100,000 for the Forada/Maple Lake Tornado Emergency Response.

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Sonar was used by members of the Douglas County Sheriff's Office Dive and Rescue Team to look for debris in Maple Lake after a tornado ripped through the area May 30.
Celeste Edenloff / Alexandria Echo Press

Celeste Edenloff is the special projects editor and a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press. She 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 2016 to once again report on the community she calls home.
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