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Torrential rain causes central Minnesota city of Randall to flood, forcing evacuations

With the potential for more heavy rain Friday night, the mayor said emergency personnel were in the process of recommending others in the city to consider leaving their at-risk homes. The sheriff’s office also advised those who’ve left their homes to avoid returning to them until it is safe to do so, and the public was also asked to stay away from the Randall area so emergency personnel could do their jobs effectively.

Flooding in Randall after rainfall.
Workers sandbag the city of Randall water pump Friday, June 24, 2022, after 12.3 inches of rain fell in the central Minnesota city Thursday night. The Little Elk River runs through the city and has topped its banks, causing flooding throughout the area.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch
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RANDALL — A deluge of as much as 12 inches of rainfall in the span of four to six hours during the Thursday, June 23, severe thunderstorms forced the Little Elk River over its banks and caused significant flooding in the city of Randall.

The flooding prompted rescues by boat of residents of homes closest to the river in the middle of the night, according to Randall Mayor Danny L. Noss, and almost every business in the city was closed Friday.

Flooding across Highway 10 prompted the Minnesota Department of Transportation to close down a stretch of the roadway to travel between Motley and Little Falls. All roads east of Highway 10 in the city of Randall were also closed, with bridges over the river inundated, according to the Morrison County Sheriff’s Office.

“Our concern is right now, what we’re doing is going around and shutting off the power and electricity to flooded houses,” Noss said by phone Friday afternoon. “ … We’ve had a couple of facilities that were flooded, but not as many as what could have been. Probably a lot of basements.”

Flooding in Randall after rainfall
A house in Randall is flooded Friday, June 24, 2022, after 12.3 inches of rain fell in the city Thursday night. The Little Elk River, which runs through the city, topped its banks, causing flooding in the area.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

With the potential for more heavy rain Friday night, the mayor said emergency personnel were in the process of recommending others in the city to consider leaving their at-risk homes. The sheriff’s office also advised those who’ve left their homes to avoid returning to them until it is safe to do so, and the public was also asked to stay away from the Randall area so emergency personnel could do their jobs effectively.

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“The Sheriff’s Office extends their prayers to the residents of Randall,” a news release stated. “The effort and support displayed by all emergency responders and residents has been amazing.”

About 30 homes were evacuated in the city, the sheriff’s office stated in a news release Friday afternoon, after 911 calls began at 2:44 a.m. with reports of flooding. Three shelter locations are available to those in need: Dr. S.G. Knight Elementary School, St. James Catholic Church and the Randall Presbyterian Church. Noss said he knew of one elderly man reliant on oxygen and wheelchair-bound who sought shelter at the school, but most others requiring evacuation found shelter with friends or relatives. No injuries were reported as of Friday evening.

“We have seven, eight, nine different organizations throughout the state here and they’re all working diligently to save lives,” Noss said. “ … You can’t control the water, but you can control safety.”

Flooding in Randall after rainfall
A BNSF train moves through the city of Randall Friday, June 24, 2022, after 12.3 inches of rain fell in the central Minnesota town Thursday night. In the foreground a cars remain in standing water from the swollen Little Elk River.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Assisting the sheriff’s office with flood response were fire departments from Randall, Little Falls, Camp Ripley, Scandia Valley, Pierz, Swanville, Upsala and Flensburg; Minnesota State Patrol, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Department of Transportation, BNSF Railway, Pipeline Safety, Todd County Sheriff’s Office, American Red Cross, Morrison County Public Works, Morrison County Land Services, Morrison County Emergency Management, Morrison County Public Health and Mayo Clinic Ambulance.

Noss, who’s lived in Randall since 2010 and been mayor for six years, said his wife grew up in the city and remembers the last major flooding of the Little Elk in 1972.

“They had in July, 4 or 5 feet of water in every store on Pacific Avenue,” Noss said of the downtown area.

Flooding in Randall after rainfall
A skid-loader operator drives a pallet of sandbags to waiting workers, who were shoring up the city of Randall's well from floodwaters Friday, June 24, 2022. The central Minnesota city received 12.3 inches of rain Thursday night, causing the swollen Little Elk River to top its banks.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Craig Schmidt, senior service hydrologist with the National Weather Service in the Twin Cities, said the amount of rainfall received in Randall Thursday night into Friday morning represents a 500-year event. This means there’s about a 0.2% chance of it happening, based on historical data.

A spotter for the Minnesota State Climatologist’s Office reported their 11-inch rain gauge in nearby Cushing overflowed, Schmidt said, and a spotter for a television news station reported 12.35 inches of rainfall near Randall.

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“With this type of rain and where it fell, it’s extremely unusual,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt said the slow-moving storm patterns Thursday night created a situation where rain kept battering the same locations over and over again.

“There’s a stationary boundary that just did not move and it was focusing the storms, so they were developing along this boundary,” he said. “They just moved along the boundary, kind of the east-west boundary that was right across that area.”

Flooding in Randall after rainfall
An intersection by the OK Tire Store in Randall remains flooded Friday, June 24, 2022, after 12.3 inches of rain fell Thursday night in the city. Residents of the central Minnesota city were dealing with flooding along the Little Elk River, which runs through the town.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Schmidt said while it was pretty likely the Brainerd lakes area would once again see severe weather Friday night, it appeared as though the impending rainy weather would not park over the same locations again.

“We will still be seeing more rain on top of what we’ve just had, so certainly, everybody’s not completely out of the woods yet,” Schmidt said.

The heavy rainfall was not exclusive to Morrison County. Schmidt said urban flooding occurred in the Sartell and St. Cloud areas due to Thursday night’s weather. Jonathan Wolfe, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Duluth, said 4.25 inches of rain was recorded 3 miles east of Barrows. The weather service also received a report of flash flooding 5 miles west of Pine Center near Thesing Road and County Highway 2, where the culverts became overwhelmed.

Flooding in Randall after rainfall
Highway 10 outside of Randall on Friday, June 24, 2022, remains flooded after 12.3 inches of rain fell Thursday night in the central Minnesota town. The major four-lane highway remains closed to traffic.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Rain wasn’t the only precipitation dropped by the storm clouds. Thursday’s weather also brought multiple rounds of hail, with the largest reported to be about the size of a baseball, or 2.75 inches, 8 miles south of Brainerd.

Wolfe said it’s unusual for hail of significant size to fall for as long as it did across such a widespread area. The weather service received reports ranging from East Gull Lake to the north down to Cushing and east to Harding.

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“That whole area had a lot of large hail for a long period of time in storm after storm,” Wolfe said. “And each one was dropping pretty large stones. … And then that amount of rainfall — up to like four-plus inches — is pretty rare, too. Just really slow-moving storms, and storms that kept hitting the same areas.”

Chelsey Perkins, community editor, may be reached at 218-855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at twitter.com/DispatchChelsey .

Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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