Top Northland News Stories of 2019

Darren Danielson
Updated: December 31, 2019 10:41 PM

Congratulations - We made it through another year!


The Northland experienced both triumphs and tragedies throughout 2019. Before we close the door once and for all on the year past, we take a look back at a very busy year in local news. Here are some of the top Northland news stories of 2019. The 2019 John Beargrease sled dog marathon started 2019 with a race for the record books. Because the finish line turned into a family affair! At the end of the grueling 300 mile race, Finland, Minnesota's Blake Freking took first place. Then two hours later, his wife Jennifer shot across the finish line in second place.

E-cigarettes and vaping stories lit up the airwaves in 2019. More than 50 people died from vaping related illnesses, including one death recorded here in Duluth. Health officials urged people to stop vaping immediatly.

Virginia and Eveleth-Gilbert decided to join forces in education this year. Voters in all three communities voted to combine the two schools into one. Construction on the new high school could begin in 2020 and should take about two years to complete.

Big news in Wisconsin shook the political world all the way to Washington when U.S. Congressman Sean Duffy announced he was resigning. Duffy and his wife learned the child they were expecting would be born with medical complications. Republican candidates wanting to fill Duffy's remaining term will square off in a special primary election in February.

Major outdoor events brought tourists from near and far to the twin ports. Tens of thousands of runners and fans flocked to Duluth for another successful Grandmas Marathon weekend.

The 31st annual bayfront blues festival saw over 30 blues artists take the stage in bayfront festival park. And as soon as blues fest wrapped up, the festival of sail ramped up. Tall ships fans from around the country enjoyed touring the majestic vessels in August.

The floating museum, the William A. Irvin made an historic voyage in October. She was carefully returned to the Minnesota slip after the ship and the slip got some overdue maintenance. This was the first time the Irvin had been moved in 3-decades.

In November, the Duluth city council passed the controversial plastic bag ordinance. Shoppers will be charged a five-cent fee on single use plastic bags starting in April.

Tragedy struck the Adas Israel congregation in September when their historic Jewish synagogue went up in flames.

Crews were unable to save the synagogue, but several religious scrolls were rescued from the burning building. A 36-year old homeless man was charged for starting the fire.

Our commute through downtown Duluth was unusually challenging this year. The first two phases of the Superior street reconstruction project blocked traffic for much of the year, but was finally reopened in November. Enjoy it while it lasts though, because phase three will close off Superior street again this spring.

A sad start to the holiday season when catholic bishop Paul Sirba passed away unexpectedly December 1st due to cardiac arrest. Catholics throughout the Northland paid their respects at his funeral mass. Pope Francis will choose a new bishop for the Duluth diocese, but there is no timeline announced yet.

Old man winter came for Thanksgiving this year, in for form of two strong back to back winter storms. They brought flooding, power outages and lots of abandoned vehicles. The city couldn't handle it all, prompting a formal, public apology from Duluth Mayor Emily Larson.

Nearly 22 inches of snow fell and powerful winds and waves coated the Duluth aerial lift bridge with so much ice that for the first time in history the lift bridge couldn't lift.

But the top Northland news story of 2019 - was 13-year old Jayme Closs being found alive. Jayme was taken from her home in Barron, Wisconsin by a man who first murdered her parents. Thousands of people prayed, hundreds of people searched, but after 88 days it was Jayme who rescued herself.

A beautiful victory for Jayme, and a poignant reminder to all of us to take hold of our own futures as we head into the new year.


Darren Danielson

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