Power outages persist after destructive derecho causes widespread damage
The majority of customers should be restored by Saturday night, said Amy Rutledge, manager of corporate communications for the power company, but some may not be restored until Sunday.
BRAINERD — The power could be out for days for some area residents as utility crews work to clear downed trees and debris or replace lines and poles damaged during severe weather Thursday night, May 12.
About 2,400 customers in the Minnesota Power service area remained in the dark just after 3 p.m. Friday, and a company representative said those impacted in areas around Little Falls, Long Prairie and Browerville should prepare for multiple days without electricity. The majority of customers should be restored by Saturday night, said Amy Rutledge, manager of corporate communications for the power company, but some may not be restored until Sunday.
“We understand not having power, when we rely on power for everything, is a major inconvenience, and we understand that customers can be frustrated,” Rutledge said. “We appreciate their patience, and we really want them to know how hard our crews are working to get the power back on as quickly as they can, but also while working safely.”
Rutledge said dangerous winds caused widespread tree damage in those areas and made the work of line crews challenging from the start as they began to respond shortly after the storm blew through the region. The storm took down power to about 10,000 Minnesota Power customers at the peak of the outage. It’s one of the most significant outage events experienced by the company since 2016, when a windstorm impacted the Duluth area, Rutledge said.
Given amount of damage, we expect this to be a multi-day event & estimate power to be restored to majority of customers late Saturday evening. Visit our outage center: https://t.co/7JjEAys9QN— Minnesota Power (@mnpower) May 13, 2022
We remind customers to stay away from downed wires/poles & trees leaning on wires. pic.twitter.com/ImoTAlH2Or
“With these high winds, we had numerous trees that were knocked into power lines, we have some broken power poles, we have lines that were literally knocked down as well by the trees,” she said. “And so all of that is really adding time to the restoration efforts — replacing poles, stringing wires. And then, of course, not to mention that the trees that are blocking the roads are also hampering our efforts as well.
“But what we want folks to know is we have all of our resources focused in these hardest-hit areas.”
Another approximately 570 Crow Wing Power customers awaited restoration on Friday afternoon as well, down from the 2,000 customers experiencing outages Thursday night. Char Kinzer, public relations manager, said crews worked all night to get the power back on and the remaining 50 outages were smaller, scattered across the area from Remer in the north to Royalton in the south.
“They’d go out to a place and say, ‘We’ve got eight broken poles here, snapped right off, and we’re probably going to find more in the morning.’ It’s hard to see everything at night as to what’s going on,” Kinzer said. “So they repair the largest areas they can at a time.”
Kinzer said reports from workers in the field indicated wind gusts Friday continued to bring down trees left unstable by saturated soil in the Outing area.
Both power company representatives said workers from multiple surrounding utility companies helped make the necessary repairs to bring power back.
Victoria MacKissock, emergency manager with the Morrison County Sheriff’s Office, spent Friday morning assessing storm damage. Residents in Little Falls and the Cushing area saw the most concentrated damage, which MacKissock said was mostly confined to trees and power lines, although some homes in the Lake Alexander area were not spared.
“Seasonal homes and homes up there had trees that fell on their roofs or fell into their houses that they were getting cleaned up,” MacKissock said. “ … That was definitely more of a harder-hit area within our county.”
Although structural damage did occur, MacKissock said no injuries were reported as a result of the storm or cleanup. As for those who might need assistance while living without power — such as those who need supplemental oxygen to live — MacKissock said the sheriff’s office is in touch with township and city officials throughout the county to ensure needs are met.
“If anybody has any kind of needs, too, you know, give us a call,” she said. “ … If there’s a relative that they can stay with, a friend that they can stay with, that does have power — get them to where they need to be so they can maintain those services.”
Based on a preliminary review of the damage, MacKissock said the National Weather Service in Chanhassen believes wind speeds ranged from 60-70 mph.
Although winds appeared to wreak more havoc to the west, Cass and Crow Wing County residents also grappled with downed trees and structural damage. The Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport recorded a gust of 61 mph during the storm.
At 8:25 p.m. Thursday, multiple trees larger than 12 inches in diameter were reported down along Hessman Hill Road in Pine River. At 8:39 p.m., a tree was down on a power line and on fire in Manhattan Beach, which prompted the Crosslake Fire Department to respond.
In Baxter, a spotter reported eight trees down between their location and the next door neighbor on Red Sand Lake. The trees fell over a period of five minutes at the onset of the storm, according to the report. Several trees were also downed by the winds near the North Memorial Health Ambulance station in Baxter.
Earlier Thursday evening, the National Weather Service in Duluth expected the Brainerd area to experience some of the strongest winds in the Northland from the storm. But ultimately the storm calmed somewhat as it crossed the state, compared to the 100 mph winds and rare dust storm it prompted earlier in South Dakota and southwestern Minnesota.
“Just the fact that you are getting 100 mph wind gusts and the storms themselves were moving 80, 90 mph, that’s definitely unusual,” said Bryan Howell, a meteorologist with the weather service in Duluth. “From a meteorology standpoint, it was kind of cool to see, but at the same time, you know, we recognize there was a lot of damage from that. I mean, it’s widespread damage.”
Police scanner reports of tornado on the ground near Pillager. Shelf cloud moves through Brainerd. #mnwx. Funnel cloud reported near Nisswa. @NWSduluth pic.twitter.com/HHVoDH2FFE— Renee Richardson (@Dispatchbizbuzz) May 13, 2022
A dark, ominous-looking shelf cloud portended the arrival of the storm in the lakes area. The massive storm system met the definition of a derecho, which is a widespread, long-lived wind storm associated with a band of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms, according to the weather service. Derechos can produce straight-line winds and be as destructive as tornadoes.
One such storm caused landscape-altering damage in the lakes area in July 2015, producing hurricane-strength winds and leaving a path of destruction 3 miles long and 8 miles wide in the Gull Lake area.
Howell said earlier storm activity Thursday in the north-central region of the state, including reports of hail, ultimately led to the derecho weakening as it approached.
“As that last line pushed in, the storms became elevated … so they’re getting their energy from higher up in the atmosphere as opposed to the surface because there’s an area of stable air at the surface. So that helps prevent the winds from coming down,” Howell said.
It still dropped plenty of rain, however. For the month to date, 2.44 inches of rain has fallen in Brainerd thus far, more than double the average of 1.1 inches during the same time period.
No severe or even wet weather is expected in the forecast through the weekend, minus a slight chance of showers Saturday morning.
Thursday’s rainfall totals
- 8 miles northeast of Little Falls — 2.08 inches.
- Swanville — 2.07 inches.
- Hillman — 1.79 inches.
- Little Falls — 1.75 inches.
- Isle — 1.75 inches.
- Onamia — 1.62 inches.
- Long Prairie — 1.35 inches.
- Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport — 1.06 inches.
- Brainerd — 1.02 inches.
- Gull Lake Dam — 0.9 inches.
- Crosslake — 0.9 inches.
- Pine River Dam — 0.9 inches.
- Walker — 0.29 inches.
Source: National Weather Service.
CHELSEY PERKINS, community editor, may be reached at 218-855-5874 or
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