Storm winds hit 100 mph a week ago when the supercell storm smashed its way through parts of the Brainerd lakes area.
Shattered tree trunks shorn off mid stem and entire sections of forest flattened led the National Weather Service in Duluth to upgrade the supercell thunderstorm's power from an estimated 60 mph to 80 mph to include areas where the wind's force reached 100 mph.
The weather service reported a line of severe storms brought significant straightline winds to the southern portions of Cass and Crow Wing counties on July 12.
"An automated weather station in Brainerd recorded a peak wind of 65 mph during the storm. Most of the storm damage in the Brainerd area was consistent with winds in the 70 to 80 mph range," the weather service reported. "However, there were pockets of more devastating tree damage, mainly in the Pillsbury State Forest area northwest of Brainerd. Based on aerial photos provided by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, preliminary assessments suggest wind speeds in excess of 100 mph were likely in this area."
Both those who witnessed the storm firsthand and the meteorologists in Duluth are comparing this storm to the Boundary Waters blowdown on the Fourth of July in 1999. The weather service noted there were other storms of this magnitude in northwest Wisconsin in 2011 and again in Hayward, Wis. and the Crookston area in 2014, but it may mean going back to the 1970s to find a similar storm here. Even then, the downed trees that weathered more than a century of storms before falling to this storm were victims of circumstance and the vagaries of where the downburst struck. The rain wasn't enough to overly saturate the soil compared to downfalls in other storm systems. The weather service looked to several observatories as the gauge at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport didn't function. The rain levels varied from .78 inches to .94 northwest of Brainerd. Those numbers are not particularly high when it comes to rainfall. But the wind stands out for its force - no longer near hurricane level, but as strong as a Category 2 hurricane. A Category 2 hurricane has extremely dangerous winds capable of causing extensive damage to well-constructed frame homes, snapping and uprooting trees, and causing a near-total loss of power for days to weeks.
Power crews have been working 16-hour days to restore power to the lakes area communities and neighborhoods. Brainerd Public Utilities and Crow Wing Power reported electricity was restored to their customers as of Wednesday and Thursday. Minnesota Power reported 1,538 customers remained without power as of Friday but the majority of customers should see power restored by Sunday.
Terry Sluss, American Red Cross deputy chair disaster services Minnesota region, said they completed an assessment of storm-damaged neighborhoods and were turning the report into the Federal Emergency Management Agency this weekend.
Update: Minnesota Power updated its report late Friday saying the majority of its customers will see power restored by Sunday. An earlier estimate posted on its website listed Saturday.