With more heavy rain likely on already saturated grounds, the National Weather Service (NWS) issued a flash flood watch through Monday morning.
The flash flood watch area includes Crow Wing and Aitkin counties and specifically the cities of Brainerd and Aitkin.
Once the clouds parted Sunday, temperatures climbed to the mid-80s by late afternoon. With humidity at 61 percent creating a sticky warm afternoon, the heat index quickly climbed to 90.
But an approaching cold front was expected to create a collision with all that warm air producing showers and thunderstorms at night.
The NWS listed the chance of precipitation at 90 percent with heavy rain in a short amount of time likely for Brainerd, which was inundated with rain during a sustained thunderstorm Saturday night. Flooded yards, ditches and wet basements were testament to the sustained and often heavy rainfall overnight.
A flood warning was issued for the Mississippi River near Fort Ripley and near Aitkin, potentially affecting residents in Morrison, Crow Wing and Aitkin counties.
“Heavy rainfall over the past seven days has saturated soils and generated rapid runoff in area river basins,” the NWS in Duluth reported. “Additional heavy precipitation is forecast over these areas Sunday into Monday. As of 11 a.m. Sunday many area rivers and streams are over their banks. The combination of saturated soils and anticipated heavy rain will result in efficient runoff into streams and rivers. This will continue driving river levels higher over the next several days.”
The NWS rain reports posted Sunday morning — representing the last 24 hours — listed 3.42 inches near Brainerd and 3.14 inches north of Merrifield, with 2.26 inches near Nisswa, 2 inches in Pillager and 1.61 inches in Pine Center. Between 11 p.m. Saturday and 8:48 a.m. Sunday, 1.22 inches of rain was reported in Aitkin.
The NWS reported the overnight rainfall totals ranged from 2 inches to 4 inches across southern Cass County and much of Crow Wing County and portions of Aitkin County. More rainfall could lead to a “prolonged period of flooding,” the NWS warned.
The flood warning for the Mississippi River near Fort Ripley is in effect from Monday afternoon until further notice. As of 11 a.m. Sunday, the river was at 9.3 feet with flood stage at 10 feet. The river is expected to rise above flood stage by Monday afternoon and continue to rise to nearly 12.5 feet by Saturday morning. When the river reaches 12 feet, the boat landing and parking lot at the public access will be underwater. A previous river crest of 14.3 feet is in the record books for March 23, 1966.
With a slight risk of severe thunderstorms overnight and into Monday, large hail and damaging winds remain in the mix along with isolated tornadoes along and south of Highway 2.
Heavy rain may continue, adding to the risk of flash flooding with the heaviest rain predicted on a line between Brainerd and Spooner, Wis. and then north to the Twin Ports and into the Arrowhead.
For Memorial Day, the chance of showers dropped to 30 percent in the morning before 10 a.m. with the rest of the day partly sunny and mild. The high is expected to reach 73 degrees with a gusty south wind. After that break in the clouds, a 20 percent to 40 percent chance of thunderstorms returns Monday night and into Tuesday.
There is hope for a dry stretch ahead as abundant sunshine is predicted Wednesday through Friday with temperatures in the mid-60s to 70 degrees. The coming weekend brings another chance for showers and thunderstorms in what has become an active pattern.
By Sunday night, the Brainerd lakes area was already in a severe thunderstorm watch, with storms forming in the area and approaching from the southwest.
The NWS issued a flood advisory for urban and small streams in southern Aitkin County, Crow Wing County (including Brainerd) and southern Cass County through 2:30 p.m. Monday.
For updated information on river levels, go to www.weather.gov/dlh.
Drivers are reminded not to cross areas covered by water as it doesn’t take much water to push a vehicle off the roadway or the flooded area may deceive drivers into thinking the road is intact when it may be washed out below the water.
“Most flood deaths occur in automobiles,” the NWS reported. “Flood waters are usually deeper than they appear. Just one foot of flowing water is powerful enough to sweep vehicles off the road. Night time flooding is particularly dangerous as conditions are difficult to identify in the dark.
“Be especially cautious near swollen streams and drainages as the banks may be very unstable. Too often curiosity of rushing water distracts from the real danger.”