Strong winds struck the lakes area before dawn Tuesday, causing thousands of area residents to lose power.
"There are a lot of broken poles, downed trees and tangled-up power lines," said Char Kinzer, Crow Wing Power manager of public relations.
Hardest hit areas were south and west of Baxter, including Lake Alexander and Shamineau Lake, which are just west of Camp Ripley.
About 1 a.m. Crow Wing County was in a severe thunderstorm watch. Strong winds hit the area about 5 a.m.
Early Tuesday morning Crow Wing Power reported 8,000 people were without power. By 10:30 a.m. power was restored to about 4,000 of those customers. And by Tuesday afternoon all but 1,000 customers had the power back on. The majority of people without power were in Long Lake, Scandia Valley, Platte Lake, Daggett Brook and Nokay Lake townships.
In some areas, Kinzer said the damage was so great it has created a "nasty mess" with so many trees down amid broken power poles it will take time to get to the areas that need repair. Kinzer said crews will work day and night to restore power and a majority of customers would be back in service by Tuesday night. A few residents may be out of power for a longer period.
The damage was extensive -- localized power outages, trees downed and building damage.
South of Brainerd, a pole barn on Morrison County Road 48 was carried through the air with such force it took out power poles, Kinzer said.
Crow Wing Power, which serves 36,000 people in Cass, Crow Wing and Morrison counties, was warning people to stay away from downed power lines.
Tom Phelps, Brainerd Public Utilities superintendent, was watching the wind storm early Tuesday as the trees began to swirl and rain came down in sheets.
"It was unbelievable," Phelps said. "It was moving pretty good."
Hot weather stressed utilities as air conditioners were running in force. But Tuesday it was the wind. Phelps said the power outages were scattered all over the city with individual trees hitting major power lines. No power poles were lost. That left about 1,000 people without power across Brainerd in northeast, north and southeast neighborhoods. Outages affected the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport and customers along Highway 18. West Brainerd had just a few spots without power.
At the airport, the weather reporting system was not working correctly after the storm but the National Weather System was working on it. Power was interrupted about 5 a.m. but the outage lasted less than 20 minutes. The airport also is equipped with a generator that kicks in when the power goes out.
By 11:30 a.m. the number of people without power in Brainerd was down to 100. Phelps said power was expected to be restored to everyone in the city by 12:30 p.m. Tuesday.
In 2001, all Brainerd residents and some in Baxter were without power for 25 hours after a tornado struck southeast Brainerd on June 13 that summer. The tornado, an F2 on the Fujita scale with winds likely higher than 113 mph, destroyed 20 buildings.
RENEE RICHARDSON can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
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