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Damaging storms leave thousands without power

Strong winds, heavy rain and a reported tornado were all part of Memorial Day storms that tracked across the state, with many downed trees and thousands left without power.

An uprooted tree lands on a car.
A pine tree was blown over Monday, May 30, 2022, in a driveway on Willow Street in Brainerd after a storm passed through the area early Monday morning.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
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Early morning storms cut off electricity to thousands in central Minnesota Monday, May 30, as snapped trees took down power lines and — after a sunny afternoon lull — strong storms were again toppling trees with heavy rain and strong winds.

Crow Wing County Sheriff Scott Goddard said the storm hit the county heavily in the areas around Crosslake, Ideal Corners, Breezy Point and Pequot Lakes.

There are multiple reports of power lines down across Crow Wing County with damage to trees and buildings. The damage was not limited to the land as Goddard said he received reports of multiple docks being overturned and pontoons floating loose on area lakes.

Reached by phone Monday night, Goddard said the sheriff’s office was still receiving reports of damage.

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Tree damage was sporadic early Monday morning across the Brainerd and Baxter areas with individual trees uprooted or major limbs snapped. A large limb damaged a small storage shed and vehicle at the apartments behind Walgreens in Brainerd. Uprooted trees landing on vehicles would be a repeated refrain as large trees, already in saturated soils, plummeted to the ground.

A mature pine tree is uprooted in a yard.
A pine tree was blown over on Clearwater Drive after an early morning storm passed through the Brainerd and Baxter area Monday, May 30, 2022.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

The National Weather Service in Duluth forecast the potential for strong to severe storms for Memorial Day. Rain and wind moved through the area early Monday morning, May 30, with reports of power outages starting after 5 a.m. with Crow Wing Power and Minnesota Power. Minnesota Power posted an update on Twitter noting 7,000 customers were affected after storms caused multiple outages in Aitkin, Little Falls, Riverton, Long Prairie, and other areas with reports of trees down on wires and lines down.

But those early morning outages would pale in comparison to the aftermath of a line of powerful storms later in the day.

Fans leaving the Warrior boys lacrosse match in the rain.
Lacrosse fans leave Don Adamson Field in a heavy downpour Monday, May 30, 2022, after officials postponed the game for 30 minutes because of lightning against the Becker Bulldogs. Heavy rains and high winds continued after the delay.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Nearly every county in Minnesota was covered by a watch or warning Monday. After the rumbling of the predawn storms and threat of more moved the annual outdoor Memorial Day observance into the protection of the National Guard Armory, sprinkles ended, skies cleared and temperatures rose. It would be a momentary respite. The early afternoon was punctuated with the sounds of lawn mowers and scent of food cooking on barbecue grills. But before long clouds began moving in from the west. The weather service issued a tornado watch about 3:30 p.m. for central Minnesota and it came with a special warning.

“This tornado watch is being classified as a Particularly Dangerous Situation,” the weather service reported noting the language was used in tornado watches for rare situations when long-lived and intense tornadoes are likely. “The environment favors strong tornadoes in these areas. Monitor this situation closely.”

Just after 4 p.m., the weather service noted severe storms were continuing to develop and move rapidly north.

Monday morning, power outages hit across the lakes area from Little Falls in the south stretching north of Crosslake on Crow Wing Power’s outage map. The map noted there were 17 total outages affecting 77 customers with 49 restored and 28 customers remaining without power late Monday afternoon. Minnesota Power had 54 active outages by Monday afternoon affecting 1,318 customers. Then the second round of storms roared through the area.

The police scanner erupted with reports of large downed trees blocking traffic lanes, of trees on vehicles, of trees wrapped in power lines, or live power lines down on roadways. Heavy rain continued for some time in Brainerd with later reports of flooded streets on the northeast side.

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Those power outages quickly rose and continued to climb. Minnesota Power reported 16,103 customers were out of power after 8 p.m. Monday night. Crow Wing Power reported 11,172 customers were affected, with most of those north of Brainerd and Baxter where the storm took its heaviest toll.

“A series of severe storms including a confirmed tornado in our western service area have caused extensive damage, leaving an est. 13,000 customers without power. Early damage assessments by our crews indicate this will be a multi-day restoration event. Areas impacted include: Eagle Bend, Clarissa, Browerville, Pequot Lakes, Nisswa, Pine River, Little Falls & Verndale. The strong storms downed trees & power lines. We have multiple crews in the area addressing the most pressing issues including lines across roads.”

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HomeGoods would take the smaller of the two spaces in the renovated interior of the former big box store in Baxter.

Memorial Day also brought a report of a massive fire in Wadena at Minnesota Valley Irrigation where the Perham Focus reported the Wadena Fire Department, for a time Monday, issued a shelter-in-place order or advised residents to go to the Wadena-Deer Creek FEMA gym safe room if they needed a place clear of the heavy smoke billowing west over Wadena. The police scanner noted a house engulfed in fire on Highway 18 near Garrison was also reported by a passer-by.

From fires to flood waters, heavy rains with Monday’s storm landed on ground that has gone from a 2021 drought to a wet 2022 spring. Rivers are running high from spring snowmelt and from rain after a series of thunderstorms.

The weather service reported the recent heavy rain will cause strong rises on the Mississippi River near Aitkin and the river is expected to rise above flood stage early Wednesday and continue rising to 14.8 feet by Saturday, June 4. At 15 feet, a few homes become surrounded by water in the Cedarbook neighborhood near Eagle Road, the weather service reported. The Aitkin City Park also becomes flooded.

Monday’s rainfall measured 1.16 inches at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport weather station with 1.15 inches falling in one hour just before 7 p.m.

By Tuesday, there should be a better idea of how much damage this latest round of thunderstorms caused across the region.

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Brainerd Dispatch Staff Writer Tim Speier assisted with this story.

Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchBizBuzz.

Renee Richardson is managing editor at the Brainerd Dispatch. She joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 1996 after earning her bachelor's degree in mass communications at St. Cloud State University.
Renee Richardson can be reached at renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com or by calling 218-855-5852 or follow her on Twitter @dispatchbizbuzz or Facebook.
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