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Storm damages covered bridge, town hopes it can be restored

ZUMBROTA, Minn. (KTTC) – This weekend’s brutal winter storm did not spare a historic landmark in southeastern Minnesota.

Pictures posted to Facebook Sunday morning show damage to the red covered bridge in Zumbrota, the only one in the state of Minnesota. “It’s our icon. It’s what put Zumbrota on the map,” said the town’s mayor, Brad Drenckhahn.

At least a dozen cars drove by the damaged bridge Monday afternoon, taking pictures of the beloved site from inside their vehicles. One of those drivers was Rihley Donohue, a teenager who took a break from his driving lesson to look at the bridge. “It’s just a piece of history here. You want to make history last as long as it can,” he said.

The 150-year-old structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, which means it’s a historic place worthy of preservation. But nearly a century and a half since being built, a hearty Minnesota storm proved enough to cause significant damage to its roof.

Zumbrota Mayor Brad Drenckhahn described the damage. “It looks to me like the center split and it slid down on each side. The worry for us is whether the walls are gonna hold, if the roof slits in the middle and hits the deck, the walls could be lost.” The bridge’s roof is supposed to come to a point, but after this weekend’s 50 mile per hour winds and one foot of snow, it’s now flat.

The bright side is that the town was prepared for something like this. According to the mayor, the city had the University of Minnesota – Duluth make 3D blueprints of the bridge in 2011 in case it ever burned down. If the damage gets worse, they’ll be able to rebuild the bridge board by board.

Support is already coming in from the county, state, and national agencies, all looking to help restore the town’s beloved icon. The mayor added, “It’s been humbling. It’s nice to know people look at our bridge and love it as much as we do.”

“I’m sure it can be fixed. It’s gonna be treacherous, but I’m sure they can do it,” said life-long Zumbrota resident, Don Buck.

The mayor hopes restoration will be complete in the coming months. After all, the town is holding a 150 birthday celebration for the bridge in early August. “My hope is that it’ll be returned to as close original shape as it can,” he said.

Because of the damage, visitors are asked to stay away from the bridge for safety reasons. City engineers should inspect the bridge sometime Tuesday.

Shannon Rousseau

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