Pillsbury State Forest closed after storms leave trees strewn across trails, roads


The Pillsbury State Forest has been closed until further notice after Sunday's heavy storms left uprooted trees strewn across roads and trails.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says the forest's trails are impassable and all of its campgrounds are currently inaccessible.

The forest to the west of Brainerd was one of several parts of the state that were pummeled by high winds, heavy rain and lightning as severe storms made their way across the state.

"The bulk of the damage occurred between Nisswa and Brainerd," DNR area assistant forest supervisor Steve Bartz said in a news release Tuesday. "There is significant blowdown in these areas. Our staff will be flying over the area to assess the damage this morning."

Members of the public have been warned not to enter closed areas of the forest. The DNR said it will be putting together a plan to clear the roads and remove any hazardous trees, and roads will remain closed until that happens.

The state forest was one of several attractions in the state to suffer damage in the weekend's storms – with the Brainerd area particularly hard hit.

Madden's Resort on nearby Gull Lake has had to shut down during their high season after hundreds of trees were brought down and 20 of its buildings damaged.

It will be two weeks before the resort – one of the most popular in Minnesota – re-opens, Madden's Facebook page says, while nearby Cragun's resort – also on Gull Lake – isn't likely to reopen until late next week, FOX 9 reports.

The Star Tribune reports that hundreds of campers and resort guests had to evacuate from Madden's and Cragun's as wind gusts up to 70 mph blew trees onto cabins and campers, blocking roads and knocking out power lines.

The newspaper notes that 8,000 properties lost power Sunday night, of which 6,000 were still without power Monday.

Also taking a hit was Brainerd International Raceway, which was forced to cancel an event Wednesday after winds twisted a section of bleachers, took the roof of its main shop and press box, and flipped over several RVs.

The National Weather Service believes a supercell thunderstorm hit the Brainerd Lakes area Sunday night with the force comparable to a category 1 hurricane, the Brainerd Dispatch reports. A downburst (also called straight-line winds) – a strong downdraft producing damaging high winds on or near the ground – was the culprit behind all of the storm damage, the paper notes.

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