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Intense heat gives way to damaging 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.

boter seeks shelter in storm
A boater waits in the large waves for an open spot to load his boat Monday, June 20, 2022, at the North Long Lake Merrifield boat access. The storm hit quickly, surprising some boaters still on the lake.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — 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.

Within minutes of a severe thunderstorm warning issued by the National Weather Service in Duluth, a sudden and strong burst of wind accompanied by pouring rain announced the arrival of the storm just before 8 p.m. in Brainerd and Baxter. The police scanner indicated an almost instantaneous inundation of emergency calls for sparking, downed powerlines, trees punching holes into homes and blocking roadways.

Storm damage on Monday, June 20, 2022, in Brainerd
Damage is seen Monday, June 20, 2022, outside former city council member Mary Koep's home on Laurel Street in Brainerd following a severe thunderstorm.
Chelsey Perkins / Brainerd Dispatch

At 7:57 p.m., a caller reported a tree down at Maple and Southeast 13th streets in Brainerd, followed quickly by a report of a tree on a house at a South Second and Laurel streets. That house belongs to former city council member Mary Koep, whose large trees along the street have long shaded paradegoers on the Fourth of July.

Soon thereafter, Crow Wing County’s boat and water patrol was dispatched to Rice Lake in Lum Park to assist people attempting to steer a paddleboat to land.

To the north by Gull Lake, numerous reports of powerlines down and trees blocking roadways also peppered the airwaves. A Cass County responder reported he was blocked in at his location by trees and could not immediately help with responses.

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Both Cass and Crow Wing County dispatchers were receiving such a high volume of calls in the immediate aftermath, they were heard asking emergency responders to keep notes because they could not record them fast enough. At 8:16 p.m., a Cass County dispatcher relayed information from the weather service noting wind gust speeds reached 70 mph.

Storm damage on Monday, June 20, 2022, in Brainerd
Damage in the immediate aftermath of a severe thunderstorm is shown Monday, June 20, 2022, near Franklin Arts Center in Brainerd.
Chelsey Perkins / Brainerd Dispatch

After the storm, a drive through north and northeast Brainerd revealed tree damage on numerous streets and in yards, along with in city parks. Several pine trees were broken off or downed near the basketball courts in Gregory Park. Both basketball hoops and a section of backstop fencing were blown down in Memorial Park. A pine tree was busted in the playground at Garfield Elementary School. A home near the intersection of O Street and Ninth Ave Northeast showed nearly the entire roof’s worth of shingles removed. Trampoline casualties were visible throughout Brainerd neighborhoods.

As of 9:15 p.m. Monday, Crow Wing Power reported the storm came up quickly, mimicking the recent Memorial Day storm. Severe weather Monday night left more than 10,000 customers without power, the electrical cooperative stated on its Facebook page. Thousands of those customers were in the Baxter area, along with those in the Emily, Outing and Crosslake areas.

Storm damage on Monday, June 20, 2022, in Brainerd
Damage is seen Monday, June 20, 2022, in Brainerd following a severe thunderstorm.
Chelsey Perkins / Brainerd Dispatch

At 10:34 p.m., Minnesota Power reported 78 active outages affecting 10,670 customers, with many of those outages concentrated in the Gull Lake area. And at the same time, Brainerd Public Utilities noted 478 customers without power, particularly around the northeast Brainerd area.

A severe thunderstorm warning was in effect for the region until 8:30 p.m. Monday. The National Weather Service in Duluth issued the warning for west-central Aitkin County, south-central Cass County and Crow Wing County.

At 7:40 p.m., the thunderstorm was located over Fort Ripley, or 13 miles north of Little Falls, moving northeast at 45 mph. The weather service warned of hazards including ping pong ball-sized hail and 60 mph wind gusts.

First came the heat

Children swimming on hot day
Children scale an inflatable toy tower along with another which resembles a large flying saucer Monday, June 20, 2022, at the YMCA Camp Vanesek day camp on Whipple Lake in Baxter. With temperatures in the 90s and a heat index exceeding triple digits, the children cooled off in the Baxter lake.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

With a temperature of 99 degrees observed Monday at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport, the previous record high on this date stood no chance.

According to online weather data gathered by the National Weather Service for the Brainerd area, the standing record high for June 20 was 93 degrees, occurring in 1995. The temperature Monday came amid a heat advisory warning of dangerous conditions issued for much of the Upper Midwest, including most of the Northland through 1 a.m. Tuesday. While the mercury read 99 by late afternoon, the heat index soared to 106 degrees, the weather service reported — exceeding earlier predictions.

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Sunday’s hot weather also produced a new temperature record for the area. After topping out at 73 degrees Saturday, the temp never fell below 71 degrees throughout the overnight into Sunday morning. This set the bar for the highest minimum temperature recorded on June 19.

That same record appeared to be smashed Monday as well, with the previous highest minimum at 70 degrees on June 20, 1941. The lowest temperature recorded at the Brainerd airport Monday was 79 degrees as of 5:53 a.m.

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

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.
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