December thunderstorm resets the record books


Rain, which also included a flood, broke a rainfall record of 119 years on December 15. The National Weather Service in Duluth reported that Brainerd recorded 0.97 inches of rainfall, annulling the 0.70 inches of 1902. Duluth also set a new high of 49 degrees, surpassing the 48 degrees of 1877.

Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport recorded an additional 0.27 inches of rainfall Thursday, most of it before 6 a.m.

Rain changed to light snow after midnight as the temperature steadily dropped from 43 degrees to 32 degrees before 3am at 5pm

There have been sporadic reports of fallen trees throughout the area. But the icy road conditions and the biting temperatures seemed to be the main problem in the aftermath of the storm. Just hours earlier, running water roads were covered with ice with frozen tire tracks and ruts covered with a thin layer of light snow. The snow in the north of Brainerd measured about 5 cm on Thursday morning.

In Brainerd, some with cars parked outside had to use warm water to get through frozen vehicle doors as falling temperatures caused freezing temperatures that turned rain into ice.

Strong winds and flurry of snow partially obstruct the view for drivers when driving on Highway 371 near Hole-in-the-Day Bay in Nisswa, Thursday, December 16, 2021. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Strong winds and flurry of snow partially obstruct the view for drivers when driving on Highway 371 near Hole-in-the-Day Bay in Nisswa, Thursday, December 16, 2021. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

On Thursday night, the Minnesota Department of Transportation listed Highway 371 with ice on the lane from south of Pequot Lakes to south of North Long Lake. Slush slush has been reported on other highways in the area, including Highway 210.

Side roads and district roads were icy for drivers on Thursday when the light snow covered the ice. Highway 210 from Brainerd to Motley was classified as a dry sidewalk Thursday night.

The Brainerd Public Library closed early Thursday due to road conditions and weather-related issues.

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Jonathan Wolfe, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Duluth, said there were no reports of major damage to the area from the storm. Wolfe said the mid-December thunderstorms were unprecedented, melting away the snow on the ground and then adding a smaller amount back in by Thursday.

Just a little colder, said Wolfe, and that precipitation could only have been snow, which turned from an inch of rain to something closer than a foot and a half of snow.

The good news for those hoping for a white Christmas is that the snow that lies here is unlikely to go anywhere with the temperatures predicted through December.

“It won’t melt,” said Wolfe.

The outlook is for cold and dry conditions with a 60 percent chance for some more snow Friday night.

The sun should return on Saturday and for the next week, which should help clean up any remaining ice.

Wednesday started with thick fog and mild air. People ran errands, bought groceries, and left coats and other winter clothes with the unusual, if not unprecedented, warmth. Temperatures rose to 45 degrees for a high.

The arrival of the complex storm with thunder, lightning and heavy rain in mid-December was unusual. The storm system was, as the National Weather Service predicted, one for the record books of the first December tornadoes recorded in Minnesota when two tornadoes were confirmed in the southeastern part of the state.

The lake region escaped the strong winds that could have contributed to power outages and significant tree and property damage. While the conditions were breezy with westerly winds of 30 km / h or more, the peak gust at Brainerd Lakes regional airport reached 44 km / h early Thursday morning before sunrise.

Other areas weren’t so lucky.

The National Weather Service in the Twin Cities reported that a low pressure system of historic strength resulted in a variety of high-end weather impacts from the central plains to the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes on Wednesday and Thursday.

“A serial derecho traveling at 60-70 mph from Kansas to Wisconsin resulted in over 400 reports of noxious winds and multiple tornadoes. Most of the damage in our area occurred from south-central Minnesota to west-central Wisconsin, â€the weather service reported. Before the storm, temperatures in the south of the state exceeded 60 degrees.

“The warm temperatures melted the remains of the snowpack from the winter storm of December 10, which led to thick fog for much of the morning and afternoon,” reported the weather service. “After the thunderstorms, strong winds with gradients and widespread gusts of over 80 km / h developed for several hours late on Wednesday evening and into the night.”

Redwood Falls Airport recorded a gust of 78 miles per hour at 11:30 p.m.

“Temperatures quickly dropped below freezing on Wednesday night in western and central Minnesota, causing the rain to turn into a wintry mix of freezing drizzle and snow. Accumulations of snowfall of 1-4 inches together with the strong gusty winds from Wednesday night to Thursday morning led to poor visibility and travel hazards, â€reported the weather service.

The Minnesota State Patrol reported nationwide from 6 a.m. Wednesday through 6 a.m. Thursday, soldiers responded to 1,121 crashes, 27 of them injured – one serious injury and one fatality. Another 49 vehicles came off the lane or skid and needed transport or towing aids, including several unfolded semi-trailers.

Renee Richardson, Managing Editor, can be reached at 218-855-5852 or [email protected]. Follow on Twitter at


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