Heavy rain, gusty winds hit the Northland on FridayMuch of the Northland awoke to thunder early Friday morning and at first light witnessed a scene eerily reminiscent of what the region saw at dawn one year and one day earlier: heavy rain pouring down, roads flooding, ditches and creeks running high and trees and power lines down.
By: Andrew Krueger, Duluth News Tribune
Much of the Northland awoke to thunder early Friday morning and at first light witnessed a scene eerily reminiscent of what the region saw at dawn one year and one day earlier: heavy rain pouring down, roads flooding, ditches and creeks running high and trees and power lines down.
But thankfully, rainfall totals for most areas — though heavy — were just a fraction of what the region saw during the historic flooding of June 2012.
There was some flood damage reported in Superior on Friday morning as a large complex of storms rolled across the region from the west. Gusty winds caused more widespread problems with power outages in the Northland; the peak gust at the Duluth airport was 54 mph.
In many areas those strong winds arrived after the rain ended, thanks to a weather phenomenon that can develop in the turbulent atmosphere behind a large cluster of storms.
“In the wake of it, a wake low developed,” National Weather Service meteorologist Geoff Grochocinski said. “These (low-pressure systems) sometimes develop in the wake of a large storm complex and they create brief gusty winds.”
The rain that fell Thursday and Friday may be just the beginning, with additional storms possible and a threat of flooding continuing through the weekend.
Thousands of customers in the Northland lost power on Friday morning, including in several Duluth and Superior neighborhoods. Minnesota Power’s online outage map also indicated significant power outages in the Cloquet, Brookston, Alborn, Mahtowa and Floodwood areas, among others.
Minnesota Power spokeswoman Amy Rutledge said the utility was dealing with numerous weather-related outages scattered across its entire service area. She said repair crews would be out all day to restore service to customers. Rural volunteer fire departments were kept busy, too, responding to a number of downed power lines.
The Duluth International Airport lost power for about a half-hour on Friday morning. Tom Werner, executive director of the Duluth Airport Authority, said it happened at a quiet time in the terminal’s daily schedule — no flights were delayed.
Staff members fanned out through the terminal, which opened earlier this year, to make sure all systems were running normally once power was restored.
“The first test of that kind for the new building went well,” he said.
The Superior Fire Department responded to four calls of power lines down. Later in the day it was called to the Super One Foods grocery store on Belknap Street where an electrical fire created smoke and began an evacuation about 4:30. An electrician had been working in the store since power went out in the morning and caused some kind of damage at the store. The fire in the afternoon was out by the time firefighters arrived.
Lake Country Power reported a peak of more than 7,000 customers without power Friday morning in the Grand Rapids and Kettle River areas; that number was down to 1,600 by Friday afternoon. Most of the problems were caused by an issue with a transmission line that cut power to two substations. Gusty winds contributed to additional outages in the McGregor, Sturgeon Lake and Grand Lake areas.
The Twin Cities and central Minnesota were hit harder by overnight storms, with Xcel Energy reporting 133,000 customers without power at the peak Friday morning. That number was down to about 44,000 by evening. A gust of 85 mph was clocked in Benson, in west-central Minnesota.
Breezy Point, near Brainerd, reported 7.75 inches of rain Thursday and Friday to lead the way among Northland weather stations. Gordon, in southern Douglas County, reported more than 6 inches of rain, and weather spotters in Washburn and Hoyt Lakes each reported more than 5 inches of rain.
The Duluth airport received about 2 inches of rain Thursday and Friday.
While most areas were able to accommodate the rain without flood damage, that may not be the case if additional thunderstorms hit the region — as is forecast this weekend as warm, humid air continues to stream into the region from the south.
“What we’re going to see, every time we get another round of storms, is that the soil is going to have a harder and harder time absorbing the rainfall,” Grochocinski said.
Another round of severe storms swept across the Twin Cities on Friday evening, dropping torrential rain and downing trees. The Weather Service reported wind gusts in excess of 60 mph, power outages and street flooding in the metro area; a weather spotter in Maple Plain reported 2.2 inches of rain in just 30 minutes.
Check duluthnewstribune.com for weather updates today and Sunday.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.