Dayton says Brainerd is 'open for business' on visit to storm-battered area

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Gov. Mark Dayton and U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan insisted the Brainerd Lakes area is still "open for business" as they surveyed the damage wreaked by last Sunday's storms.

The Brainerd area was arguably the hardest hit by the storms, as winds up to 95 mph felled trees, damaged property and brought down power lines, with hundreds of people evacuated from homes, cabins and resorts.

On Friday, Dayton and Nolan took a helicopter ride to survey the battered area, before meeting with resort owners, emergency managers, local officials, residents and volunteers.

Speaking to reporters in Nisswa, Dayton praised the local rescue efforts, saying it represents “the Minnesota way of digging in and doing what you need to do," the Star Tribune reports.

The newspaper notes local resort owners are eager to keep visitors coming to the area, and those that haven't been able to re-open fully are even referring guests to other nearby lodgings.

"The resiliency has been really remarkable," Rep. Nolan said. "The folks here are ready for all the tourists, so keep ‘em coming."

Among those who met with Dayton and Nolan were the owners of the popular Gull Lake resorts Madden's and Cragun's, which have both been forced to close down while repairs are carried out.

On its website, Cragun's said power has been restored to the resort, and that it hopes to be fully operational again by next Friday. In the meantime it is housing 70-180 power workers who are helping get the area back on its feet.

The Grand Forks Herald reports the severity of the situation in the Brainerd area was upped on Friday so it is now considered a "level 2 disaster," which potentially opens the door for more funding flowing into the area.

Meanwhile, work continues in an effort to restore power to the 17,000 or so properties that lost it on Sunday, with Minnesota Power and Crow Wing Power telling the newspaper they have made progress throughout the week.

KARE 11 says Minnesota Power had restored electricity to all but 1,700 of its customers in the area as of Thursday, down from a peak about 8,000, and hopes to have 95 percent of power restored by Sunday.

Electricity should be restored to all affected homes by Monday, the Star Tribune notes.

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