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"... close to ground zero": Brainerd bears brunt of wet summer

Mary Mattson and her dog Daisy walk on their submerged dock on White Sand Lake Monday. The Baxter lake keeps rising and lakeshore residents have to adjust their docks with the water. (Brainerd Dispatch/ Steve Kohls) Gallery1 / 2
Mary Mattson and her dog Daisy walk on their submerged dock on White Sand Lake Monday. The heavy rains have caused the lake to rise to a level not seen in the past 20 years, according to Mattson. (Brainerd Dispatch/ Steve Kohls) Gallery2 / 2

If it feels like it's been an especially rainy and stormy summer this year, that's true.

It's true, at least, for those who've spent their summer in the Brainerd lakes area. Another half-inch of rain fell during the early Monday morning thunderstorm, adding to the nearly 2 feet of rain recorded in Brainerd since June 1.

Kenny Blumenfeld, climatologist with the Minnesota State Climatology Office, said Brainerd area residents could be forgiven for that perception despite a mostly normal, if not below normal, storm year for the rest of the state. The United States as a whole is experiencing a relatively quiet year for severe weather as well, he said.

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"You guys have been sort of close to ground zero." - Kenny Blumenfeld, climatologist with the Minnesota State Climatology Office

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"You guys have been sort of close to ground zero," Blumenfeld said. "You've been hit multiple times by large and damaging thunderstorms and a flooding event."

Blumenfeld said while most places in the state are running above normal, the Brainerd area stands out when it comes to rainfall. A total of 21.22 inches were recorded at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport this summer. The average precipitation in Brainerd over the course of June, July and August is about 12 inches.

Blumenfeld said amounts collected from volunteer weather observers show even greater rainfall totals throughout the region.

"The region between Brainerd, Aitkin and Baxter, that's where we've seen some of the largest amounts," he said.

Blumenfeld said his colleague Pete Boulay, also a climatologist, spent time analyzing weather data from some of the bigger weather stations throughout the state. Although none are on track to break all-time records when it comes to precipitation, several of the stations have collected data showing this summer falls within the top 20 of recorded years.

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"It certainly has not been the hottest summer on record, or the most humid." - Kenny Blumenfeld, climatologist with the Minnesota State Climatology Office

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"It certainly has not been the hottest summer on record, or the most humid," Blumenfeld said. "There's nothing that unusual about it, but it's definitely been a return to summer-like conditions."

In many parts of Minnesota, the number of days when temperatures were above 90 degrees were twice as plentiful this year as the last two years combined.

Wet summer, snowy winter?

So what does all this wet weather mean as Minnesota marches toward autumn and winter? Not a whole lot, it turns out. Blumenfeld said although difficult to predict, it's unusual for the rainy season to extend beyond September. Drier weather in October allows the soil moisture to lessen by the time freezing temperatures set in, he added.

If the weather fails to follow its typical pattern, however, Blumenfeld said continued moisture coupled with an early frost and a long, snowy winter could spell trouble when it comes time for the snow to melt in the spring. With a high level of soil saturation, water from the melted snow would not be absorbed as readily and could increase the flooding potential of area rivers and streams.

"That's a pretty rare convergence of events," Blumenfeld said.

Some long-range forecasters are predicting a long winter, he said, although this prediction bears "careful interpretation." Blumenfeld said this prediction is based in part on the weather entering a La Nina pattern.

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"The official forecast is for a slightly cooler winter than average, ..." - Kenny Blumenfeld, climatologist with the Minnesota State Climatology Office

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"The official forecast is for a slightly cooler winter than average, but it's a coin toss as to whether it's going to be snowy or not," he said. "You can't necessarily look at what's happening in the summertime and extrapolate that. ... What's going on in the summer doesn't necessarily tell us what's going to happen in the winter."

Blumenfeld said from his perspective, that's one of the reasons his job is enjoyable.

"We're always on the edge of our seats," he said.

Chelsey Perkins

Chelsey Perkins grew up in Crosslake and is a graduate of Pequot Lakes High School. She earned her bachelor's degree in professional journalism at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Perkins interned at the Lake Country Echo and the Rochester and Austin Post-Bulletins, and also worked for the student-run Minnesota Daily newspaper as a copy editor and columnist during college. She went on to intern at Utne Reader magazine, where she was later hired as the research editor. Before becoming the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch, Perkins worked as the county government beat reporter at the Dispatch and a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal.

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