Nine wilderness campers from St. Paul are happy to be alive and healthy after a storm's swirling winds uprooted trees all around them in their Boundary Waters campsite the evening of July 8.
The group of four dads and five sons ages 16 to 20 had just finished a burrito dinner around 7 p.m. on Trout Lake north of Tower when they saw rain and storm clouds at the south end of the lake.
With limited cellphone service, they couldn't get good radar images, but it looked like a small storm that was going to miss them.
"The sun was out behind us. It was hitting the shore on the other side," said David Bell, who talked with his son about taking their small fishing boat out for the evening.
It had been hot, Bell said, and they knew thunderstorms were possible. Nobody was alarmed when it started raining -- something the experienced group had weathered plenty of times before.
Then it rained harder. Then it poured. Then the wind picked up.
"All of a sudden ... there was this screaming wall of white coming at us," said Jason Busch, another of the dads. "It felt like getting sprayed with a fire hose from the east, which was weird because 1/8the storm3/8 was coming from the west."
Lightning struck all around the campsite, and loud cracks of thunder mixed with the sounds of snapping branches and ripping tree trunks.
"All these trees started to topple around us," Bell said. "It was literally pandemonium."
One of the dads yelled for everyone to get out of their tents, out from under tarps, and run down to a large, bare rock on the shoreline -- as far as they could get from trees and flying debris.