A severe storm whipped through the Brainerd lakes area felling countless trees, tearing away docks and damaging homes.
An overcast and hot day with a high of 87 degrees gave way to a swirling wind capable of whiplashing trees, snapping giant pines and uprooting others. Some highways were impassable. As the storm was ending, the sun was setting, leaving the extent of the damage hidden in darkness. Power lines were tangled in trees cutting off access to entire neighborhoods north of Brainerd. At 5:30 p.m., the National Weather Service issued a tornado watch for Crow Wing County and later a tornado warning for points west. At midnight crews were still finding blocked streets and downed power lines.
Chris Olson was working at Good Samaritan Bethany and moving residents into designated storm safety areas. He watched the wind whip trees back and forth. An already gloomy day darkened quickly.
"That wind was howling and the trees were whipping hard," Olson said. "It was gray and green, hardcore rain and trees were blowing like they were going to fall over. Everybody was pulling their phones out and weather tracking."
Olson was amazed by the streaks of jagged and brilliantly white lightning across the sky.
"There was a lot of electricity in this one," he said of the storm. Lightning bolts remained visible long after the storm seemed to have passed to the east. Residents north of Brainerd on Legionville Road saw the thick trunks of grown trees sway back and forth and others upended with their entire root ball exposed. Driveways were blocked with downed trees filling the air with the aroma of freshly cut pine.
In Baxter, Beth Abersoll thought the day was so warm and potent a storm was in the works. She was trying to calm her four children, ages 10, 9, 7 and 3, in her patio home. As the storm rolled in and the wind increased in intensity she grabbed the children and went to their walk-in closet.
"I saw the trees literally spiralling," she said.
They checked their smartphones to watch the radar images. They turned on a movie on a tablet, told stories and pretended they were zoo animals. "For awhile they forgot anything was going on," Abersoll said of the children.
Crow Wing County Sheriff Todd Dahl said approximately 8,500 homes were without power in the county. Dahl paged all available deputies to work to help with calls. There were no known injuries or fatalities and little to no travel was advised. Brainerd Public Utilities had no estimated time regarding the return of power in the city.
Power was out in Baxter, Brainerd and Staples and other cities in Crow Wing and Cass counties also had no power. North Brainerd's power flickered but never went off.
Just before midnight, Crow Wing Power reported it had 9,000 members without power from Motley to Leader through the Brainerd area. Highway 210 through Brainerd and Baxter had motorists going through blackened intersections. North Brainerd was an island of light.
According to the police scanner during the storm, power lines and trees were down in several areas of the county. Rock Lake Campground in Pillager also reportedly lost trees and power. Emergency personnel were checking the campground to make sure everyone was OK.
The Nisswa area also saw a lot of storm activity and Highway 371 also was down to two lanes.
There were also reports of a propane leak in Nisswa.
As night fell it left cities in a dark. The only area that had power in the cities of Baxter and Brainerd was North Brainerd, from Kingwood Street near Franklin Arts Center to the Washington Street bridge.
People were out checking the aftermath of the storm Sunday night and those who were hungry headed to Hardee's in north Brainerd. The drive-through was long and one customer waited for 45 minutes before she placed her order.
Inside, Hardee's employees were running ragged, the kitchen was running out of certain food items. The restaurant stayed open past its regular hours to serve customers and still had cars waiting to get to the drive-through when it finally turned off its main sign.
James Rutledge, Brainerd, said Hardee's was one of the few places open. Dairy Queen also had a steady line of customers.
Dennis Summers, who was waiting in line at Hardee's, lives on Barbeau Road, north of Baxter, said his neighborhood was in bad shape following the storm. He said a lot of trees were down and one tree busted and hung up in the air, tangled.
Summers knew the storm was coming and he watched it.
"I hit sooner than I thought," said Summers. "I could hear the trees breaking and it sounded like they were coming toward me."
Summers said after the storm his neighbor had a Bobcat and plowed the trees off the roadway so he was able to get out. Summers said he had to come to Brainerd to pick up his wife, who works at Essentia Health-St. Joseph's Medical Center, and his daughter needed him to pick up some milk.
"My wife needs to work when she gets off work so I saw Hardee's was open," Summers said.
Summers said his son works at the gas station near Brainerd International Raceway and he checked on him to make sure he was OK. He said the power went off there and he was fine.
"I grew up in Oklahoma and I never went to a storm shelter," Summers said. "I have seen more storms here than I have seen in Oklahoma."
Summers said he lived in Oklahoma for 22 years and in Brainerd for 19 years.
Connie Norman of Trommald came to Brainerd to check out the storm damage and because her house was too hot after she lost power. Norman and her family met up with her niece, Bobbi Kruchten of Brainerd, at Hardee's to eat.
"There were so many trees down and it was so windy," Norman said. "There were no lights in Ironton and we got to Brainerd there were no lights and then there were some lights."
Kruchten said she was working at Burger King during the storm and she called her manager who told her to close up as fast as she could.
As the family was eating, a Hardee's employee came up to say they were out of roast beef.
Mike Kedrowski of Staples headed to Brainerd to check things out and didn't realize until he got closer to Brainerd that he was almost out of gas. He said luckily Holiday Stationstore on South Sixth Street was open.
"When we got to Baxter everything was shut down and then got to Brainerd we couldn't see anything," Kedrowski said.
Kedrowski, who was waiting in line at Hardee's, said power was out in Staples and there were lots of trees and power lines down. He also said some roads by Central Lakes College in Staples also were closed.
"It hit us pretty hard," Kedrowski said. "The north side of Staples is down. I thought we were going to lose all our windows. A tree fell on my neighbor's house."
A Round Lake resident reported their dock and pontoon were lost to the storm.