Weather script about to flip in the Brainerd area

Above normal temps in the next week bring concerns of flooding

Close up of ice coating bittersweet.
A coating of ice covers bittersweet berries Wednesday, April 5, 2023, at the Northland Arboretum in Baxter.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — The winter storm that swept across western and northern Minnesota this week brought plenty of snow with it — just not to the Brainerd lakes area.

And having avoided a sucker punch from the storm that rolled across the state Tuesday, April 4, and Wednesday, area residents can now look forward to temperatures well above seasonal norms, with the forecast calling for highs in the 50s this coming weekend and in the 60s early next week.

Right now, most of our river basins have an extreme, near record above normal amount of the water in the snowpack, which does increase our risk for spring flooding
Ketzel Levens, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Duluth

In the Brainerd area, snowfall totals Tuesday and Wednesday averaged between 1-2 inches, with Pine River topping the list at 4.5 inches, according to totals compiled by the National Weather Service in Duluth. The heaviest snow fell in the west and northwest part of Minnesota, with over a foot of snow reported in several places including near Thief River Falls, Roseau, Warroad, Warren and Argyle.

The main threat from the storm for the Brainerd area was freezing rain, ice up to two-tenths of an inch thick and strong wind gusts over 40 mph, which necessitated a warning of whiteout conditions on Highway 371 at Hole-in-the Day Bay on Gull Lake from the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

One concern the weather service had ahead of the storm was the possibility of power outages due to ice on tree limbs and power lines, but outages reported Wednesday morning were few and sporadic, with Crow Wing Power and Minnesota Power reporting only a handful around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.


With the storm in the rearview mirror, a warming trend is expected, with over a 20-degree swing from Friday, with an expected high of 42 degrees, into Tuesday, with an expected high of 65 degrees.

While sure to be welcome for most winter-weary area residents, the quick warmup is a concern for the National Weather Service in Duluth as enhanced runoff from the melting snowpack could lead to flooding.

“Right now, most of our river basins have an extreme, near record above normal amount of the water in the snowpack, which does increase our risk for spring flooding,” said Ketzel Levens, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Duluth.

Of particular concern in the Brainerd area is the Mississippi River at Aitkin and Fort Ripley, where there is a 95% chance of minor flooding, the weather service reported. There’s also a 95% chance of moderate flooding of the Mississippi River at Aitkin, and 61% chance of moderate flooding at Fort Ripley.

Ketzel said the ingredients for a faster melt off — nighttime temperatures above freezing, strong winds, higher dew points, sunshine, precipitation and a deep frost depth — are all present across northern Minnesota, and could be for the next couple of weeks.

“We are looking at a pretty big pattern changing starting over the weekend and into next week. So we’re looking at above normal temperatures beginning as early as Saturday and then just continuing to warm up there,” Ketzel said. “Tuesday and Wednesday are kind of the top of this roller coaster ride in temperatures. We start to kind of mellow out a little bit after that.”

While there isn’t much of a chance for precipitation in the next seven days, Ketzel said the 8-14 day outlook shows a higher probability for both above normal temperatures and precipitation.

“Generally this is all going to have a really negative impact to spring flooding risks,” she said.


Area snowfall totals from Tuesday-Wednesday

  • 4.6 inches in Wadena
  • 4.5 inches near Pine River
  • 4 inches in Verndale
  • 3 inches near Staples
  • 2 inches near Pillager
  • 2 inches near Hackensack
  • 1.5 inches near Motley
  • 1.4 inches in Crosby
  • 1 inch in Brainerd
  • 1 inch near Camp Ripley
  • 1 inches near Long Prairie

MATT ERICKSON, Editor, may be reached at or 218-855-5857.

Graphic showing warmup coming to Brainerd.
Contributed / National Weather Service in Duluth
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Matt Erickson joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 2000 as a reporter, covering crime and courts and the city of Brainerd. In 2012 he was promoted to night editor and in 2014 was promoted to editor of the newspaper.
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