- Associated Press - Friday, July 17, 2015

BRAINERD, Minn. (AP) - After meeting with resort owners who were hit by recent severe thunderstorms, Gov. Mark Dayton declared the Brainerd lakes area “open for business” on Friday.

Dayton took a helicopter survey of the damage and heard the concerns of resort owners after Sunday’s storm and 70 mph winds forced some resorts to shut down, displacing hundreds of vacationers at the height of the summer tourism season.

Dayton praised cleanup efforts, saying they show “the Minnesota way of digging in and doing what you need to do.”

The Star Tribune reports some resorts will need a few more days to be completely up and running, but owners say they are ready for visitors. The resorts that aren’t at full capacity are referring guests to other places with room.

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, who joined Dayton along with several lawmakers, also praised the cleanup efforts. Utility trucks, brush haulers and police vehicles crowded roads surrounding Gull Lake, while workers used chain saws and wood chippers to cut, chop and haul the trees that were felled by the storm.

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

Minnesota Public Radio News reports that more than 1,000 homes and businesses were still without power Friday.

“We could hear the trees falling,” said Jan Nelson, who was at Kavanaugh’s Resort on Sylvan Lake with her husband and grandchildren when the storm came. “One fell right in front of the door. (But) they have done a fabulous job cleaning it up.”

Kavanaugh’s Resort was open by Friday, but Madden’s and Cragun’s Resorts on Gull Lake were still closed.

Dayton said private property won’t qualify for state disaster assistance, but he’s hoping that state aid could help repair damage to public facilities. Nolan said damage to public facilities would have to reach $3.5 million before aid can be granted.

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