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Memorial Day punctuated with damaging winds in Brainerd lakes area

Straight line winds caused damage throughout the area, toppling trees over roads, power lines and buildings.

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A tree uprooted behind Heather Jones' home on Pinedale Street in Manhattan Beach during the Monday, May 30, 2022, storms.
Megan Buffington / Echo Journal
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The Memorial Day holiday weekend ended with an evening of cleanup after fast-moving storms swept from South Dakota through Minnesota on Monday, May 30, bringing damaging straight-line winds and rumors of tornadoes to the northern Brainerd lakes area.

"We had a strong line of thunderstorms that moved through," meteorologist Josh Sandstrom, with the National Weather Service in Duluth, said Tuesday. "They started developing down in eastern South Dakota, and that line just marched northeastward throughout the afternoon into evening here. The storms were moving really quickly too, so they came in quickly, and just as quickly it was suddenly done."

The northern part of Pine River and most of Backus were in a tornado warning for roughly an hour until 6:15 p.m. Monday. Sandstrom said conditions were ripe for a possible tornado, and there have been rumors of touchdowns east of Backus or west of Pine River, though nothing had yet been confirmed.

Storms uprooted and snapped off trees throughout Cass and Crow Wing Counties, causing damage on Monday, May 30, 2022.

"We did get many reports of damage, especially clusters of trees reported down on power lines as it went through," Sandstrom said. "There was pretty widespread straight-line wind damage as it moved through."

Communities from Hackensack south to Nisswa along the Highway 371 corridor and to the east were left with downed trees across roads, on rooftops and smashed through power lines. The storms themselves lasted only a short time, but cleanup lasted well into Tuesday, when many communities throughout the area were still dealing with downed trees and power outages.

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Downed trees were still visible throughout Pine River on Tuesday, May 31, 2022 after the Memorial Day storm. Some damaged property, like the travel trailer in this photo.
Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

Trees blocking roadways in Pequot Lakes, Nisswa and Crosslake were all cleared Monday evening, according to police and fire departments.

"We cut about 17 trees last night," Nisswa Fire Chief Shawn Bailey said Tuesday. "We've pretty much done what we're gonna do. City workers are going to finish cleanup in the ditches."

Pequot Lakes Police Chief Eric Klang reported a similiar situation in Pequot Lakes.

Power was mostly restored to the Nisswa and Pequot Lakes areas by Tuesday morning, according to Minnesota Power and Crow Wing Power outage maps, but areas such as Crosslake that were hit harder had yet to see relief.

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The storms snapped several power lines in the area, including at least two on Manhattan Point Boulevard following the Monday, May 30, 2022 storm.
Megan Buffington / Echo Journal

"We have a lot of power outages throughout the city. Manhattan Point was hit hard with many trees on structures and downed power lines," Crosslake Fire Chief Chip Lohmiller said Tuesday in an email. "I believe there were trees down on every road in Crosslake, and power is slowly being restored."

Cass County Sheriff Tom Burch said the storm hit most of Cass County.

"Basically the whole county was affected by the storm," Burch said. "The majority was east of the Highway 371 corridor in the central part of the county, but as you got further north and to the east there was damage in the Outing and Remer area. It was pretty much all over the county. A lot of trees down and power lines. There were severe damages. We're still trying to assess all that, but as far as we know, no injuries were reported."

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Some homes came close to disaster during the Monday, May 30, 2022 storm, such as this home east of Backus.
Travis Grimler / Echo Journal

In a news release issued Tuesday afternoon, Burch said Byron and Poplar townships appeared to receive the most extensive damage, including damage to several structures, a grain silo and irrigation systems. In that area, a radar may have indicated the possibility of a tornado. Burch estimated the damage at $120,000 and growing.

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Fire and rescue crews were active throughout the county Monday night and Tuesday morning working to remove trees from roads and fight fires from downed power lines.

"Things went well today," Burch said Tuesday. "All the first responders were out and volunteers getting the roadways cleaned up. I think we're starting to feel pretty good."

Burch encouraged Cass County residents to sign up for the county's Nixle alert system to receive cellphone updates on storms and other public alerts. The system can be found at www.co.cass.mn.us.

Crow Wing Power said in a Facebook page update at 9 a.m. Tuesday, May 31, that 7,700 residents were still without power at that time, though initial numbers were as high as 11,000. Crow Wing Power said much of the extreme damage was located in Pequot Lakes, especially north and east of the city. Crow Wing Power urged its customers to call in outage reports by phone rather than submitting them through email to help the company better use the reports to compile information.

Crow Wing Power also gave advice on safety during and following extreme weather events.

"Unfortunately, with the extreme damage, this is a multi-day event. Extremely important - Stay away from downed lines. Let our crews cut the trees away from power lines. Live wires can be entangled in downed trees," the post said. "Preparing for the long haul is extremely important for your comfort and safety. According to the FDA, some food will only last about 4 hours in an unopened refrigerator, 24 hours in a half full freezer and 48 hours in a full freezer."

Minnesota often sees extreme weather like this later in the summer.

"The weather conditions we had yesterday are a bit unusual," Sandstrom said Tuesday. "They aren't completely out of the question for things we see around here even this time of year. It's a bit early. We typically see our peak severe weather season right in the middle of the summer, but it's not necessarily unusual to see severe weather at the tail end of May. But we had an atmosphere that was well primed for the potential for tornadoes."

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If Minnesota weather follows patterns from past years, the Memorial Day storm might prove to be the meteorological event of the summer.

"The Storm Prediction Center in Oklahoma had a moderate risk for severe weather for our area, which we only see that once, maybe twice a year, maybe not even that," Sandstrom said. "Hopefully that's probably the worst to happen this summer."

The National Weather Service predicted that windy conditions, up to 35 mph, would likely continue until late Tuesday evening, petering out around midnight. In addition, they predicted cold temperatures with highs reaching the mid to upper 50s with temperatures dropping into the 40s overnight. Predictions for Wednesday were warmer and drier going into the second half of the week.

Megan Buffington, Echo Journal intern, may be reached at 218-855-5854 or megan.buffington@pineandlakes.com . She is a 2021 Pequot Lakes High School graduate who attends the University of Nebraska in Lincoln.

Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or travis.grimler@pineandlakes.com.

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