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Crews making progress on power outages near Brainerd after Sunday's storm

Dozens of line workers putting in 16-hour days are steadily chipping away at the number of residents and businesses in the Brainerd area without power after a Sunday storm blew through the area and toppled trees and power lines.

Dozens of line workers putting in 16-hour days are steadily chipping away at the number of residents and businesses in the Brainerd area without power after a Sunday storm blew through the area and toppled trees and power lines.

As of Thursday night the number of Minnesota Power customers without electricity had dropped to 1,700, the utility reported -- down from 8,000 in the immediate aftermath and 4,200 earlier Wednesday. Crews will continue working through the weekend to restore power to the hardest-hit neighborhoods.

Gov. Mark Dayton is scheduled to tour the area on Friday. It’s unclear whether the storm damage will qualify for state or federal disaster aid.

Minnesota Power officials said the extent of the damage was worse than they originally thought. Winds that hit 70 miles per hour snapped more than 150 power poles, which will have to be replaced along with damaged transformers, the company said in a statement. The work is time-consuming because in severely damaged areas like Pine Beach Peninsula, crews have to remove trees first to access downed lines.

The storm swept through a wide swath from Gull Lake to Lake Hubert, forcing the evacuation of more than 900 vacationers and shutting down some of the area’s most popular resorts. Cragun’s Resort is expected to be closed until next week; Madden’s on Gull Lake is expected to reopen in two weeks.

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The Pillsbury State Forest, located just west of the hard-hit Brainerd lakes area, is closed "until further notice" because downed trees have made all forest roads and trails serving the forest impassable, according to the state Department of Natural Resources.

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