June 20th was yet another day of violent weather in Minnesota, as the intense heat that led to record-breaking temperatures also teamed up with strong winds aloft to fuel a barrage of intense and damaging thunderstorms across western, northwestern, and northern Minnesota during the evening and overnight hours. The thunderstorms produced occasionally destructive winds, leading to extensive damage, as well as the year's second severe weather fatality in the state.
After morning storms uprooted trees near Side Lake, the first of many waves of thunderstorms fired ahead of a strong cold front and on the nose of a vigorous upper-level disturbance with winds aloft of 50-80 mph. By 2 PM, thunderstorm cells had developed on the Minnesota border with North Dakota, just south of Grand Forks. These storms quickly intensified and prompted severe thunderstorm warnings and siren activation for winds exceeding 80 mph, as semi trailers were blown off the road near Oklee in Red Lake County, with power poles toppled and wind-driven large hail damaging crops in Polk County.
Additional waves of strong to very severe thunderstorms formed in Minnesota or raced out of the Dakotas over the next 12 hours, with radar signatures indicating hail up to the size of baseballs during the evening, and numerous cells producing measured wind gusts of 60-90 mph from late afternoon right through the night. At 4:25 PM a wind sensor near Mallory (again in Polk County) clocked a 91 mph gust, with large trees and a highway sign damaged. Between 6:45 and 7:00 PM, and farther south in Clay County, winds gusted to 86 mph on the south side of Sabin, 72 mph on the north side of town, 69 mph near Dillworth and 68 mph at the Moorhead airport. Around the same time, different storms produced significant tree damage near Indus in Koochiching County, and in Sauk Centre in Stearns County.
As damaging storm cells moved on and weakened, new ones formed in other areas, and the onslaught of occasionally intense winds continued. Following an 82 mph wind gust recorded at the Sioux Falls, SD, airport, dangerous winds moved into far southwestern Minnesota around 7:30 PM, breaking tree limbs, knocking out power, and snapping trees in Pipestone and Lyon counties. Meanwhile, other storms caused significant tree and structural damage in western, central, and northern Minnesota between 7:30 and 11 PM, with too many reports of trees snapped or uprooted to enumerate, affecting parts of Otter Tail, Wadena, Becker, Cass, Beltrami, Itasca, Crow Wing, Aitkin, St. Louis, Lake, and Cook counties. Some of the more intense damage reports included roofing ripped from multiple buildings in Becker County, and large parts of a metal building peeled off and strewn over a wide area near Aitkin.
The deadliest of the day's storms entered far western Minnesota around 11 PM, moving into the Alexandria area after 11:30. A man from Arizona was killed and his wife hospitalized after storms hit a resort on the west side of Lake Mary, in Douglas County, blowing a tree onto the couple's camper. The same family of storms moved northeastward and produced an 83 mph wind gust near Verndale just after midnight.
Of particular note:
This storm event marks the second severe weather death in Minnesota during 2022. Minnesota has not had more than one day with severe weather fatalities in any year since 2006. The other fatality this year was also from extreme winds, on May 12th near Blomkest. Just prior to the new year, Minnesota suffered another severe thunderstorm fatality in the Rochester area on December 15, 2021, so this has been a violent period for the state.
Additionally, the Alexandria area, along with other portions of southwestern, western, and northern Minnesota, had already been hit hard at least two other times this year. The fatality in Douglas County was not far from the path of the most prolific tornado on Memorial Day, near Forada. On May 12, a tornado had struck the west side of Alexandria and 87 mph winds had been recorded at Forada. There is no scientifically-reviewed explanation for the "serial" behavior of severe weather events, and why in some years, certain areas are hit multiple times, but it is a phenomenon that has been observed by climatologists and meteorologists for decades. Perhaps most recently, in 2016, parts of the Brainerd Lakes area had power outages and/or significant tree damage five times or more. The same type of pattern was observed in 1998 and and also 2001 in southern Minnesota and the Twin Cities area.
The 91 mph gust recorded at Mallory marked the third time a gust of 90 mph or greater was measured in Minnesota this year. We know of no other years on record with three or more days with measured 90 mph gusts in Minnesota, but it should be noted that Minnesota now has more actively monitored wind sensors (through a variety of sources) than at any other time in its history. It is definitely easier to detect a strong wind gust than ever before, but it is also clear from the damages alone that 2022 has had an unusually high frequency of unusually strong thunderstorm winds.
Updated June 30, 2022