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Cleanup continues after high winds in Monday storms

Capping off an absolute scorcher of a day in Minnesota, a severe thunderstorm packing powerful winds and torrential rain Monday, June 20, led to widespread tree and property damage while knocking out power to thousands in the Brainerd lakes area.

Storm photos from Brainerd
A crew of workers with Minnesota Power worked Tuesday, June 21, 2022, to free a power line on Ojibwa Road, which was taken down Monday night in the storm. The road was blocked off while the crew worked to restore power. In the same area, a tree crew was also working to remove a large tree that had fallen into a building.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — A strong line of thunderstorms, bolstered by winds up to 75 mph and as much as 3 inches of rain, wreaked havoc Monday, June 20, across the Brainerd lakes area.

In the light of day Tuesday, the ferocity of the storms became all the more apparent. There were numerous reports of snapped or uprooted trees, damaged houses and other property and electricity knocked out throughout Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing and Morrison counties.

Twisted sheet metal wrapped around road signs in Baxter. A pine tree pictured in a century-old historic photo of St. Joseph’s Hospital lay uprooted, along with many more mature trees throughout north and northeast Brainerd. Hundreds of damaged trees throughout the area were reported to the National Weather Service in Duluth.

Dangerous downbursts

Those in areas around the Brainerd lakes and Aitkin experienced the brunt of the multiple rounds of severe weather, the weather service reported, with significant damage from straight-line winds observed.

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Krystal Kossen, meteorologist with the weather service, said Tuesday the extreme heat meant conditions were conducive to volatility in the storm system.

“Last night was kind of messy as far as the storm organization goes. There were cells popping up everywhere and we had a good environment for some downbursts,” Kossen said.

Downbursts, the weather service notes, are powerful winds descending from a thunderstorm that spread quickly once they hit the ground. Damage caused by these winds can be similar to that caused by EF0 or EF1 tornadoes.

Kossen said forecasting the impacts of Monday’s stormy weather was challenging because of the conditions.

“We had cells that on the radar looked otherwise insignificant. But then we looked at the wind speeds underneath them and they were 60 to 70 knots — or 65 to 75 mph,” Kossen said. “ … We were not surprised, but just the amount of reports of fallen trees and stuff was pretty significant.”

Vicki and Bill Randall, residents of Birch Drive in Baxter, thought they might be in the clear after the first burst of wind and rain blew through the area. But a second bout of severe weather prompted the couple to seek shelter.

“All of a sudden the rain came again and the wind just hit, like, immediately. I’ve got a big picture window … and it honestly felt like something was coming through the window,” Vicki Randall said. “Things started hitting it, and right away, Bill goes, ‘We better get to the downstairs.’”

Storm photos from Brainerd
Baxter resident Vicki Randall, left, and her neighbor Terri Kautz look over Randall's backyard Tuesday, June 21, 2022, after a storm Monday night uprooted a large tree in her yard striking her garage and a vehicle.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

While headed to the basement, the Randalls heard a loud crack and knew something happened outside. When it seemed safe again, they returned to the first floor, opened the front door and saw a large oak felled by the winds. It fell between the garage and the couple’s truck, damaging the roof of the attached garage and missing the truck by inches.

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“I looked outside and all I can say is there were some explicit words that were said,” Vicki Randall said. “ … Concrete and everything came up. It was crazy. And of course, this morning we saw what really ended up happening. Things are everywhere.”

Power outages

At the peak of outages Monday night, more than 20,000 customers in the area were without power between three major power companies in the area: Minnesota Power, Crow Wing Power and Brainerd Public Utilities.

As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, Minnesota Power reported 42 active outages affecting 358 customers across the state. The highest concentration of customers affected were in Irondale and Oak Lawn townships, Lake Shore, Nisswa, Pine River, Sylvan Township and Unorganized Territory in Crow Wing County. The company expected the majority of its customers would be restored as of midnight Tuesday.

Storm photos from Brainerd
A portion of a steel shed with moved by high winds Monday night and came to rest on the traffic signs Tuesday, June 21, 2022, on Cypress Drive in Baxter.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

"We recognize the difficulty of not having power, especially in an area that suffered damage during the Memorial Day storm and during extreme heat," a news release stated. "We appreciate our customers’ patience and our crews’ ability to work safely and as quickly as possible in these conditions to get power back on for our customers."

Crow Wing Power recorded about 10,000 customer outages in a short period of time between 8-9 p.m. On Tuesday, Crow Wing Power public relations manager Char Kinzer said crews were making progress as outages fell to around 5,000 by Tuesday morning. The wind Tuesday caused some weak or partially damaged trees to fall, however, keeping the number of outages relatively unchanged throughout the day as they continued to make progress.

As of 5 p.m. Tuesday, Crow Wing Power’s outage map showed 193 outages affecting 4,387 customers, with the highest concentrations of those affected around Outing, Emily and Fifty Lakes. Kinzer said Crow Wing Power brought in contractors to assist with the damage and between 60 and 70 people repairing power lines and restoring electricity. The power cooperative reminded people not to clear debris from electrical lines themselves and to instead call in a report.

Brainerd Public Utilities Superintendent Scott Magnuson said a couple of dozen customers in Brainerd remained without power Tuesday. These customers would need an electrician to fix the connections to the home, he said, as the connection to the house is the customer's responsibility. Magnuson reported more damage to BPU services during the second wave of wind and rain.

Assessing the damage

John Bowen, emergency management coordinator with the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office, said Tuesday afternoon an assessment of the damage was still in process, though he estimated about $170,000 in damage to county infrastructure — enough to exceed the threshold for an emergency declaration in the county. Bowen said he had not yet gathered all the damage information from smaller cities and townships.

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Brainerd Deputy Police Chief John Davis said trees were down throughout the city, with concentrations of significant damage in the north and northeast of Brainerd. Brainerd Parks and Recreation maintenance foreman Troy Harris reported significant damage to the ball fields and backstops at Memorial Park, and trees fell onto concession stands at both Memorial Park and Jaycees Park. The Jaycees Park concession stand will need significant repairs, Harris said.

Storm photos from Brainerd
The wind screen and backstop of a softball field in Memorial Park Tuesday, June 21, 2022, was dislodged by high winds from a storm Monday night in the Brainerd area.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

“Trees are down in every park in the city and the trees that fell are larger mature trees,” Harris said.

While Brainerd and Baxter businesses and residents experienced significant impacts, Bowen said the northeastern areas of the county were hit just as hard. Crosslake Police Chief Erik Lee said more trees were damaged in this storm compared to the severe weather on Memorial Day, with significant damage concentrated on the east side of Crosslake.

Lee heard reports of trees on vehicles and houses near Greer Lake Campground, on Tamarack Road and around Lake O’Brien, and at least one house with a tree through the roof. Multiple boat docks were on shore and in trees due to the wind, he said.

Storm photos from Brainerd
A portion of the roof on the Grizzlies Restaurant in Baxter remained dislodged Tuesday morning June 21, 2022, by high winds from a storm Monday night which downed trees and caused damage in the area.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Cass County Sheriff Tom Burch reported sustained winds of 70 to 80 mph and three-quarter-inch hail. Most of the damage there was concentrated in the central, east and south-central areas of the county. An early estimate of infrastructure damage was around $130,000, though damage estimates are still being evaluated.

Aitkin County Sheriff Daniel Guida reported a significant number of roads blocked and power lines down due to falling trees.

Morrison County Emergency Management Coordinator Victoria MacKissock said Morrison County saw three severe storm warnings issued during the storm. The county didn’t have any reports of major damage to county infrastructure, but trees down across roadways and on power lines affected a significant swath of Morrison County. MacKissock said damage was concentrated in the western and southwestern areas of the county, with the Randall area hit especially hard and some damage to outbuildings in Parker Township.

Brainerd Fire Department’s storm-related calls

The Brainerd Fire Department responded to multiple reports due to storm damage, starting at 7:52 p.m. Monday with a report of a fire alarm at Simonson Lumber, 3855 Independence Drive in Baxter. Fire crews investigated and determined the alarm was caused by a power loss. Several other fire alarms followed at businesses in the cities of Brainerd and Baxter.

Storm photos from Brainerd
Dave Boran, left, and Jim Nelson carry a log across Boran's yard Tuesday, June 21, 2022, in Brainerd. A severe storm rolled through the Brainerd area Monday night downing trees and causing damage.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Multiple reports of downed power lines — some sparking or flaming — drew department response, including on the 800 block of Northeast Fourth Avenue, 500 block of Bluff Avenue, at Burger King on Washington Street, at Highway 25 and East 28th Street, K Street and Northeast Seventh Avenue and the 1100 block of Northeast Eighth Avenue.

At 8:01 p.m. Monday, crews responded to the 4100 block of Cedar Scenic Road for a report of a gas leak to find a tree fallen on a meter. At 11:48 p.m. the department went to the 1200 block of Southeast 12th Street for a report of a possible structure fire. An investigation showed a power surge caused a small electrical fire. The property owner extinguished the fire and crews ensured it was out.

Rainfall totals

Wealthwood Township — 3.38 inches.

Daggett Brook Township — 3.15 inches.

Bay Lake Township — 3.11 inches.

Garrison — 2.94 inches.

Fort Ripley — 2.9 inches.

Irondale Township — 2.58 inches.

Hill City — 2.2 inches.

Belle Prairie Township — 2.16 inches.

1.7 miles southeast of Baxter — 2.13 inches.

1.5 miles southwest of Deerwood — 2.13 inches.

Ironton — 1.7 inches.

Outing — 1.63 inches.

Brainerd — 1.52 inches.

Little Falls — 1.4 inches.

Ponto Lake Township — 1.32 inches.

Source: Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network.

CHELSEY PERKINS, community editor, may be reached at 218-855-5874 or  chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at  twitter.com/DispatchChelsey .

TIM SPEIER, staff writer, can be reached on Twitter @timmy2thyme , call 218-855-5859 or email tim.speier@brainerddispatch.com .

Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
What to read next
County maintenance crews will patch roads, clean up downed trees and mow ditches throughout the week.
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A listing of area meetings and events in the Brainerd lakes area.