Washout shuts down Washington Street bridge in wake of storm: Flash flooding leads to rescue, funnel clouds spotted in lakes area

A Brainerd police squad is parked near a sinkhole that emerged in the midst of torrential rain Sunday night, July 14, at Washington and Chippewa streets. According to the police scanner, officials contacted the Minnesota Department of Transportation with concerns the westbound lanes of Washington Street were "severely compromised." Police worked to close the westbound portion from North Fourth Street to Northwest Fourth Street. Chelsey Perkins / Brainerd Dispatch

A washout, a garage fire potentially caused by lightning and a driver stranded in her flooded truck all emerged in the heart-pumping hours following Sunday’s severe storms throughout the Brainerd lakes area.

A section of westbound Washington Street was shut down Sunday evening, July 14, after severe storms caused a washout of the sidewalk adjacent to the Washington Street bridge. City Engineer Paul Sandy reported those lanes were expected to be closed Monday morning and until further notice. Motorists should plan to use the Laurel Street bridge.

The washout occurred in the midst of widespread flooding reported throughout the city following torrential rainfall brought by the severe thunderstorm affecting north-central Minnesota. Authorities on the police scanner called for the street to be closed to westbound traffic between North Fourth and Northwest Fourth streets just before 8 p.m. Sunday.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation was contacted, according to officials, following a Brainerd police officer’s assessment the area was potentially “severely compromised.”


Further information on the washed out area and its impact on accessibility to that area was unavailable late Sunday.

Severe thunderstorm causes havoc

Strong winds, rain, thunder, lightning, hail, localized flooding and a couple possible funnel clouds were also spotted throughout the lakes area Sunday.

The National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm warning until 7:15 p.m. Sunday for Brainerd, Baxter, Crosby, Nisswa, Ironton, Deerwood, Cuyuna, Upper South Long Lake, Merrifield, Gull Lake, Bay Lake, Riverton, Trommald, Woodrow, Legionville, North Long Lake, Cuyuna Country State Park and Barrows. The warning included the potential for 60 mph wind gusts and quarter-sized hail. As the storm blew through, officials in Deerwood opened the Deerwood Auditorium as a storm shelter, and officers warned campers around the Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area of the impending storm.

Torrential rain brings flash flooding, leads to rescue operation

The flood warning joined the game at 8:13 p.m., warning residents of southern Crow Wing County of flooding on many roads until 9 p.m.

One of those streets affected was Dellwood Drive, where a woman in Baxter escaped her truck before it was nearly enveloped in water in a parking lot behind Mattress Firm.

Baxter Police Sgt. Matt Maier said the woman climbed out the back window of her pickup truck to the bed before jumping to an area of exposed ground.


A truck sits in feet of standing water in a parking lot behind Mattress Firm in Brainerd Sunday, July 13. The driver escaped by climbing through the back window to the bed of the truck and jumping to exposed ground. Submitted Photo

“It was just raining so hard, and the driver’s unfamiliar with the area and thought she was in the parking lot and ended up being a little off the beaten path since everything was so flooded,” Maier said by phone Sunday night.

The water reached the truck’s headlights, and Maier said the area the driver got stuck in may have been a drainage ditch collecting water from other areas of the city during the downpour.

“All the roads had at least a foot, if not more, of standing water in some of the intersections, and I think just what happened was everything just started going back to that area. … That would make sense if it was a holding pond or a drainage ditch type area, but I can’t be certain on that,” Maier said.

July 14 Flooding in Brainerd
Several other streets around Brainerd and Baxter were reportedly flooded, including many in north and northeast Brainerd. Charles Street was among those reported to dispatchers, according to the scanner, and highways 371 and 210 were also affected, along with numerous side streets.

The basement of the Law Enforcement Center in Brainerd was flooded as well, although Sheriff Scott Goddard said the water was confined to a hallway and was not impacting the dispatch center located nearby. Still, employees watched as a steep embankment behind the building turned into a waterfall as hard rain fell for a significant period of time.


Potential funnel clouds spotted

Josh Sandstrom, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Duluth, said a weather spotter reported a funnel cloud about 2 miles southeast of Pine River about 5:30 p.m. Sunday. After reviewing a photo, Sandstrom said weather service officials are not sure the sighting was a true funnel cloud or tornado, but that didn’t mean more severe weather was not on the way.

"He said he saw some rotation and it looked like it was lowering to the ground for a little while," Sandstrom said.

Another came over the police scanner about 7 p.m. of a possible funnel cloud over Mille Lacs Lake and a boat lift out in the middle of the lake.

Quarter-sized hail was reported near Hackensack Sunday afternoon, Sandstrom said, along with nearly 2 inches of rain near Longville.

Brainerd had received 1.45 inches of rain by about 8:15 p.m., while Sandstrom said Fort Ripley got 1.71 inches. A northeast Brainerd resident reported 4 inches of rain collected in her rain gauge.

A Backus resident reported hail in that area and a Crosslake resident reported two trees down in her yard.

Crow Wing County Sgt. Brad Thesing said many of the calls the sheriff’s office responded to Sunday involved debris in the road, flooding and downed powerlines.

Other reports from the police scanner beginning about 6 p.m. Sunday included:


  • A possible powerline down across County Highway 66 by the Bourbon Room in Crosslake.

  • Trees down across Bonnie Lakes Road in Crosslake.

  • Trees down across 32nd Avenue Southwest in Pine River Township.

Power outages

Several power outages were reported across Cass, Crow Wing and Todd counties Sunday evening, including more than 700 Crow Wing Power customers out of power northeast of Backus. On its Facebook page, Crow Wing Power reported a total of approximately 1,100 members without power at 6:17 p.m. Sunday.

Hundreds of Minnesota Power customers in Todd County are out of power around the Browerville and Eagleville areas as well. As of shortly before 7 p.m., more than 2,100 customers were affected by 30 outages across Minnesota Power's provider area.

What’s next

Sandstrom said just before 8:30 p.m. the worst of Sunday’s storm was over for the Brainerd area, though Monday could bring similar weather.

He said there will likely be more scattered showers and storms that could turn severe late Monday afternoon, though they may hit north of the lakes area.

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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