Much-needed rain across the Twin Cities and parts of central Minnesota brought little relief Wednesday from high heat and humidity as it dragged into Thursday.
The National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning for the Twin Cities metro and Mankato areas for "dangerously hot conditions" starting at noon Thursday, with temperatures and humidity expected to combine to make it feel like 105 degrees.
A heat advisory also remained in effect until 8 p.m. Thursday from the South Dakota border near Madison, Minn., to Willmar to the Twin Cities and into St. Croix and Pierce counties in Wisconsin. Faribault, Redwood Falls, Mankato and Red Wing are included in the advisory area, which covers 25 counties where the heat index is expected to reach 100 degrees.
"Little cooling relief is expected overnight," the National Weather Service said on Wednesday.
Minnesota has, for the most part, avoided the extreme heat that baked much of the southern United States this month. While Arizona has shattered records for consecutive days above 110 degrees, and parts of Texas, Florida and even the Midwest have been engulfed by the heat wave, July temperatures in Minnesota have remained just about normal, said Peter Boulay, a state climatologist for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
"The main heat dome is not centered over us — it's in the Southwest," he said. "We've been on the edge of the heat, riding the edge of it. So we've been getting some heat. We'll probably end the month, not a lot, but a little above normal."
Thursday is expected to mark the seventh day that temperatures in Minneapolis and St. Paul rose above 90 degrees this month. That typically happens five or six times in an average July. After a high of 95 degrees Thursday, temperatures are expected to drop back into the 80s Friday through Sunday.
"There's a reason why people come here to escape heat in the South," Boulay said. "It's going to be a hot next couple days, but it is good to be in Minnesota.
"Except for the smoke," he added.
Bad air, mainly from Canadian wildfires, has dogged the state all summer and shows no signs of letting up. An air quality alert due to high levels of ground-level ozone pollution remains in effect in the Twin Cities through 9 p.m. Thursday, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency said.
Keeping cool could be difficult for thousands of Xcel Energy customers across the state after storms knocked out power early Wednesday. Trees fell on power lines as winds whipped at more than 40 mph, with one of the highest gusts reported in St. Paul at 56 mph, according to the Weather Service. By Wednesday afternoon, power had been restored to all but about 3,500 customers across the state.
Even stronger winds — clocked at 70 to 80 mph near Belgrade — battered central and western Minnesota. Several trees were reported down and power was out in Morris, Chokio and other towns in Stevens County in far western Minnesota.
"There are numerous power lines down," the county's emergency management office said in a social media post. "Crews will be working throughout the night and throughout the day [Wednesday] to clear roadways and restore power."
Some damage was reported in the county and farther east in Kandiyohi County. Pontoon boats were flipped and some buildings sustained roof damage near New London, according to the Weather Service and storm chaser reports.
The rainfall, however, was welcome relief with most of the state in some form of drought. The dry spell has been particularly bad near the Twin Cities, in St. Cloud and in Rochester. Minnesota has been abnormally dry every summer since 2020, drastically swinging from the extreme floods and rainfall of the 2010s, which was Minnesota's wettest decade on record.
Wednesday's showers, which brought up to 3 inches of rain in some areas, was exactly the type of storm needed, Boulay said.
"That's what we've been looking and hoping for — those storms that go bump in the night," he said. "It's the first we've seen all summer, but those storms are really what give us a good chunk of our rains."
Another chance of strong to severe storms will again be possible Thursday and Friday, the Weather Service said.