Sometimes when it rains, it pours.

After almost three months shut down, the Brainerd Family YMCA reopened its doors last month, but the nonprofit’s facility in downtown Brainerd suffered catastrophic damage in Friday’s storm.

“When I got in and saw the damage, I just wanted to fall to my knees. I had tears in my eyes,” CEO Shane Riffle said Monday, July 20.

The several inches of downpour Friday night caused the building’s drop ceiling to fall down, and water came rushing in and flooded the structure on Oak and South Sixth streets.

The Christian-based nonprofit for youth development, healthy living and social responsibility opened its doors Wednesday, June 10, as a fitness center for the first time since March 17.

“I just can’t believe that we’re not able to be there for our members,” Riffle said of temporarily closing again to assess the damage and to clean up. “They were so excited about coming back in and taking our group fitness classes, swimming, being around their friends.”

Storm damage

Roughly between 10 p.m. Friday, when the storm arrived in earnest in the Brainerd area, and 4 a.m. Saturday, the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport received 3.29 inches of rain.

"We have looked at the video,” Riffle said of the Brainerd Family YMCA’s security system. “And the water starts to come through the ceiling and the tiles start to fall at about 10:40 p.m. on Friday evening, about seven or eight minutes actually after our nighttime janitorial crew left.”

The National Weather Service storm reports listed flooding as the main concern in the lakes area. Power lines were reported down in Hackensack and in Staples with wind damage taking down trees.

“Someone could have been hurt, you know? Obviously, with the rate at which the ceiling tiles were falling from the ceiling, it very well could have injured someone,” Riffle said.

Riffle said a cursory, visual inspection of the Brainerd Family YMCA’s roof revealed no obvious structural weaknesses.

"With a really old flat roof like we have, you think that there might be small water leaks, which happen from time to time and you patch and repair. But the extent to which the water came in on this storm was just … I've never seen anything like it,” Riffle said.

ServPro, specializing in fire and water cleanup, has been hired to help restore the Brainerd Family YMCA.

“Everyone who’s looked at the video so far — the disaster restoration crew Servpro that’s been out here, the contractor that we’re working with — everybody says the same thing in the way that I felt, ‘I’ve never seen anything like this,’” Riffle said.

Riffle said had the YMCA building been occupied at the time of the storm, someone would have perhaps noticed smaller leaks that would have forewarned about the impending danger.

“Having watched the video, it starts dripping down the walls on a number of the different video cameras. And then really at the same time, in about three or four different locations, it just turns into like a waterfall. And the ceiling tiles just start dropping,” Riffle said.

Shane Riffle, CEO of the Brainerd Family YMCA, describes the damage sustained after rain water poured through the roof during a storm Friday night. Riffle was assessing the damage Monday, July 20 at the facility. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
Shane Riffle, CEO of the Brainerd Family YMCA, describes the damage sustained after rain water poured through the roof during a storm Friday night. Riffle was assessing the damage Monday, July 20 at the facility. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Costly repairs

The Brainerd Family YMCA’s Studio One has a capacity of 12 people, due to coronavirus precautions, and was the site for many of the group fitness classes that resumed last month.

“It’s a wooden jointed floating floor. And when that gets moisture underneath and on top of it, it starts to warp and buckle quite quickly, so we’re already seeing that on a significant part of the floor and that is quite expensive to replace,” Riffle said.

And every few hours, a new sensor in the Brainerd Family YMCA’s fire detection system is failing due to the storm damage and costs about $700 each to replace, according to Riffle.

Shane Riffle, CEO of the Brainerd Family YMCA, touches the wood floor in a workout room Monday, July 20, after water poured in Friday night. The floor is beginning to ripple with the high moisture content. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
Shane Riffle, CEO of the Brainerd Family YMCA, touches the wood floor in a workout room Monday, July 20, after water poured in Friday night. The floor is beginning to ripple with the high moisture content. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

“The technician from Nardini (Fire Equipment) was out Saturday morning. And he said that the entire system could cost upwards of about $20,000, so that is something that’s quite expensive,” Riffle said.

The youth-based wellness organization began offering day care services in March following the growth of the coronavirus cases. The part of the YMCA’s facilities that houses its licensed day care was spared, so it remains open, according to Riffle, unlike its other programs.

“ServPro is telling me that it’ll be two to three days before they get things fully dried. And then our contractor estimates that it may be up to about five days to get everything put back in so that we could reopen from that perspective,” Riffle said.

Donations needed

Riffle said he is considering starting the nonprofit’s annual fundraising campaign early because of the storm damage.

“We do need to bring in membership revenue. We need to bring in program revenue, so that the mission work can be done. And we’re operating at about 25% capacity,” Riffle said.

The Brainerd Family YMCA raised about $30,000 in its latest annual fundraising campaign, which was a virtual one this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Imagine how many families wouldn’t be able to work if they didn’t have good quality day care for their children. And when we talked about restarting the economy, it starts off with people being able to work, particularly families, and that means day care,” Riffle said.

“As we have the discussions throughout the community about ... how we support businesses, I hope people remember that at the Y, when we shut down, we provided emergency day care, we helped distribute food and even now we’re allowing families to go back to work and kickstart our economy,” Riffle added.

In addition to day care, the organization also started providing free ready-to-cook meals in March to families with children ages 18 and under, so they have uninterrupted access to healthy and nutritious foods.

The Brainerd Family YMCA also partnered with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and The Outreach Program of Brainerd Lakes for the evening meal program to compliment school-provided breakfast and lunches.

“We need the community right now more than ever, just like the community needed, and will continue to need, us,” Riffle said of the nonprofit’s need for financial donations. “I feel like we’re being tested and we just have to persevere because I can’t imagine Brainerd without the Y.”

How to help

To make a tax-deductible donation to the Brainerd Family YMCA, visit brainerdlakesymca.org/give.

Or mail checks made payable to “Brainerd Family YMCA” with “disaster relief” written in the memo line, to the Brainerd Family YMCA, 602 Oak St., Brainerd, MN 56401.



FRANK LEE may be reached at 218-855-5863 or at frank.lee@brainerddispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchFL.