LITTLE FALLS -- Thunderstorms again rolled across central Minnesota Monday, knocking out the Little Falls water treatment plant for a few hours and flooding ditches and roads north of the city.
Gerald Lochner, manager of Little Falls city services, said lightning hit near the plant about 3:30 a.m. Monday, damaging some equipment.
"It was a surge," said Lochner. "Everything came back on again when crews got here at 5 (a.m.) except for a motor that was fried."
Instead of pumping water directly into city lines, the city asked residents to conserve on water use until the damaged motor could be fixed. Full water use was restored in Little Falls by noon Monday.
At the Little Falls dam on the Mississippi River, water raged through the gates and spillways. Pat Burns, who lives nearby, was taking advantage of the open dam gates to do a little fishing.
"I fish here every day, but it's always better when the water is up," said Burns, hoisting a rock bass from the river.
But even good fishing doesn't make Burns feel any better about the amount of rain that had fallen in the past two days. "It's too much for where I live. They're redoing the road, and the dirt is washing into these nice yards."
At Pete and Joy's Bakery, where the basements of two buildings each had about 5 feet of water, disaster restoration specialists were surveying the damage.
Since Sunday night Little Falls has received more than 7 inches of rain. Just north of the city, the Central Minnesota Ethanol Co-op plant was surrounded by water and the frontage road leading to the plant was barricaded.
Just a few miles to the north along Highway 371 flooded fields were draining into already inundated ditches, forcing water onto a section of the northbound lane of the highway.
In Brainerd, the DNR reported another 0.66 inches of rain fell between Monday and today, pushing the Brainerd area rain total to more than 3 inches since Sunday night. More rain is in the forecast for the rest of the week, the National Weather Service reported, with a possibility of more severe weather tonight, including a chance of hail and damaging winds.
Heavy thunderstorms also hit the Twin Cities early today. Xcel Energy said 36,000 customers throughout the metro area lost power starting about 3 a.m.
Although the National Weather Service warned that conditions were ripe for tornadoes in many parts of the state, particularly in the southwest, there were no reports of serious damage Monday night.
Instead, the damage was mostly confined to west-central Minnesota. Alexandria had minor flooding and scattered brief power outages for the second day in a row Monday. Trees and power lines went down across the western Minnesota city, where the weather service said wind gusts reached 73 mph at 1:40 p.m.
The damage could be seen on Lake Le Homme Dieu, where the storm sunk boats and moved docks. Jane Huemaeller saw some of it happen.
"Standing by the window and all of a sudden, I said to my husband, 'Neil, look out the window,' and right across there goes someone's dock," she said. "The next thing we know, there were three boat lifts -- with boats on -- going by the window. I have never in my life seen as much rain coming down as fast as it did."
The Douglas County sheriff's office said there were no reports of injuries, but there were reports of damage to cabins and vehicles at Lake Miltona. The weather service placed a flood warning on Douglas County as the rain continued Monday night.
Despite this week's unsettled conditions, Minnesota has seen relatively little severe weather this season. By June 19 of last year, the weather service office in Chanhassen had issued 216 severe storm warnings and eight tornado warnings for its 51-county area, which includes nine counties in western Wisconsin. As of last week, the office had issued only 11 severe storm warnings and three tornado warnings.
(This story contains information from The Associated Press.)
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