Aitkin County assesses Wednesday storm damage – Brainerd Dispatch

AITKIN – Aitkin County was a prime example.

Wednesday, May 12, hit the Aitkin area. After 4:30 pm, the wind gusts hit, downing privacy fences across the city and just north of Aitkin. Toppled trees damaged a building, crashed on a car, blocked roads and knocked out power lines.

At the Aitkin County Fairgrounds there were three new buildings in a row. One had its door blown in with some damage to items stored inside. The second building was untouched. The third building was destroyed.

The Aitkin County sheriff’s boat and water building, which is used to store equipment, was flattened. Reached by phone, Sheriff Dan Guida said the wind removed the storage building and pulled the green auger off the feed store roof in town. Some of the steel blew off the fire department’s beer garden without causing too much damage, but then the wind blew all the steel from the Lions’ building.

“Those winds can do some crazy things,” he instructed.

Wind destroys Aitkin County Sheriff’s Department storage building late Wednesday afternoon, May 11, 2022. The building housed boats, all-terrain vehicles, snowmobiles and other emergency equipment.

Contributed / Aitkin County Sheriff Dan Guida

Guida said they saw a couple of little spouts at the bottom of the storm cell that gave the appearance of the start of funnel clouds but nothing actually came down to form a tornado. “But the winds were very, very strong,” he said.

A report to the National Weather Service in Duluth Wednesday during the storm reported southeast at 70 mph.

“You know, it’s really hard to estimate wind,” he said. “Bags that were flying by the street were going 40 miles an hour so they were passing cars.”

The final cost of damage and repairs to the fairgrounds is still being calculated. At the boat and water storage building, vehicles stored inside – from boats to all terrain vehicles, a truck, snowmobiles and generators – were mainly scratched and dented with windows or protective screens shattered. One snowmobile was smashed and other equipment sustained damage. The storage building itself was sizable but is a total loss.

“It’s flat,” Guida said. “There’s nothing really salvageable from it.”

At the fairgrounds buildings, which include winter storage, a pontoon was blown on its side.

A building is flattened and in pieces

The Aitkin County Sheriff’s Department storage building is flattened after a storm moved through Wednesday, May 11, 2022.

Contributed / Aitkin County Sheriff Dan Guida

Thankfully, Guida said, no one was in the buildings and everyone was safe.

“The plan is obviously rebuild them and get them back,” he said. During the pandemic.

Guida said last Kat fair was probably one of the highest attended extensive they’ve ever had.

“And so, we’re hoping to have another great event this year,” he said. “So we’ve got some work to do.”

Thursday afternoon, with the second round of predicted storms, Aitkin County already had reports of small hail. Guided they said the tree damage will be limited to the losses from Wednesday.

“Ironically, we’ve had two Skywarn weather spotter classes in Aitkin County this year,” Guided said of the classes, which are hosted by the National Weather Service. The classes train people on what to watch for with severe weather and provide many ways to report what they see. Guida said they purchased 100 weather radios and all are now out in the county.

“And we are getting lots of great reports from people out in the communities,” Guida said. “That’s a benefit for us. We can kind of keep an eye out for the radar to kind of find. ”

The National Weather Service announced there was a chance for storms in two waves, Wednesday and Thursday. But the damaging winds Wednesday appeared to blow up sharply and specifically with force when the storm moved through Aitkin County. It did not set off alarms as it ripped through the north of Crosby on its way to Aitkin. Guida said they were able to get the alarms sounded and get McGregor students, who were on buses sitting outside, back into the school building where they were safe.

“For the most part, it was quite isolated pockets of wind that knocked trees over,” Guida said. “… But, considering the amount of energy there was at the fairgrounds, the rest of the county fared pretty well.”

With rainfall, they are also keeping an eye on the Mississippi River at Aitkin where minor flooding was already happening. The river appeared to have crested and was beginning to recede before rising again.

“So we’re concerned about that, but we’re watching it, Guida said. “I think we’ve got a really good crew out there.”

Guida said the Aitkin city departments were on top of it Wednesday night.

“They did a great job,” he said, noting crews within minutes after power poles were knocked down to make sure everyone was safe.

“I’m glad it was daylight,” Guida said of the storm’s weekday timing.

Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchBizBuzz.

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